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Inspection and Control Duties

Written by Steve Albrecht

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 carry.

 

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 at steve@contactandcover.com.


Published in Law and Order, Feb 2014

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