Talk to veteran coppers from
yesteryear, and they will comment about how today’s patrol officer looks like
Inspect Gadget, RoboCop, and Mr. FixIt, all rolled into one. There is more gear hanging off the belts of
your officers than ever before. What
doesn’t get stuffed into the front seats of their patrol cars gets crammed into
their trunks. The list of equipment required
for this job seems to grow and grow. Of
course, your old-schoolers will still talk about how they did real police work
with a stick, a gun, a pair of cuffs, and their wits.
Keeping track of all of these
tools and assigned equipment can be a paperwork challenge and an inventory
nightmare. Just because they have it
doesn’t mean they have to carry it, but if it’s required by department policy, they
had better have it. It may seem petty
but it’s important to keep track, and knowing exactly what your field people
possess will cover your agency when it comes to liability issues.
You are in for trouble if one
of your troops gets in a police equipment accident and has an expired driver’s
license. Worse yet, if a cop in your
command gets in a questionable police shooting and used a firearm or long gun (also
known as a “trunk gun”) that he or she was not authorized by your Rangemaster
to carry, you will all have a lot of explaining to do.
The Inspection and Control
process seems tedious to some police commanders and more so to their troops. However,
beside the liability issues, it’s an officer safety concern. We are talking about tactical or safety gear
that could save their lives or cost them if they are not in proper working
condition. It makes sense to make the
inspection process regular, exacting, and precise, rather than putting it off
until an event or a tragedy dictates a closer look. Your people should care about what they
The Devil is in the
details. Do their citation books have
missing tickets or out of sequence numbers?
Are their backup weapons approved and they have qualified with them
recently? Are they carrying approved
ammo for all weapons? Do their ballistic
vests, covers, or rain gear need replacement?
Do they have a functional riot helmet or is the face shield totally
scratched? Do they have working Tasers,
less-than-lethal beanbags, and pepper rounds?
Do they have a baton or other
appropriate impact weapon, and a gas mask (from this century)? What about their CPR masks? Are their patrol cars stocked with working
fire extinguishers, first-aid kits, road flares, and other required safety
equipment? Can they actually produce
their assigned radios and the necessary keys for their vehicles?
Are they carrying things they
should not, like out-of-policy saps, head-buster six-cell flashlights, rusty
handcuffs, expired pepper spray, or outdated holsters that don’t offer any
weapons retention? Do they possess the
right keys for the police buildings, as well as city or countywide keys for
parks, signal boxes, or other specialized locks?
The discipline side of this
should be clear. You may have to pull certain officers out of the field or
change their assignments until they get themselves squared away – re-qualify at
the range, get their driver’s licenses renewed, go to the equipment office and
get new vests that you cannot hold up to the light and see through, etc.
Your specialized field units
need equipment inspections as well, including your SWAT units; K9 units;
Accident Investigations; School Resource Officers; Harbor and Marine Units; Air
Support; Crime Suppression; Hostage Negotiators; Bike Teams; Mounted; and
Motors. And don’t forget the non-sworn employees
who work for you. They need the right equipment
and tools for their jobs. If it’s
missing or broken, they need to tell you about it and you need to keep track of
it on the same regular basis as with your sworn personnel.
Steve Albrecht worked
for the San Diego Police Department from 1984 to 1999. His books include Contact & Cover (C.C.
Thomas); Streetwork; Surviving Street Patrol; and Tactical Perfection for
Street Cops (all for Paladin Press). He can be reached