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Christmas Gifts for Cops

With the Christmas season here, spouses and significant others of law enforcement officers are beginning that annual search for the perfect gift. While there are always the run of the mill “I don’t know what else to get them” gifts, with a little research and a little imagination, gifts in just about any price range can contribute to an officers’ capabilities, comfort and safety.

Since each price range has numerous examples of quality equipment, it is impossible to cover everything. Likewise, many different makes and models exist for all these suggestions. Use this list as just a thought prompter. So, tear these pages out of the magazine and put them in a conspicuous spot…

Under $50

For under $50, a number of gift ideas exist to enhance the safety of officers and the ease and comfort as they perform their duties. Consider a small flashlight, using either an incandescent bulb or an LED bulb. The light output should be between 65 and 80 lumens, which is enough for police use. These small lights may have polymer or aluminum bodies. This kind of light can be carried on the gunbelt as a backup to a full-size rechargeable or it can serve as a primary light for officers who simply favor a compact size.

Most cops use their vehicles as their office, so nothing makes a bad day worse than having to search for a piece of equipment that has slid off the seat and is rolling around in the floorboard. Consider a patrol duty bag that will contain equipment in a logical pattern. It will also offer a spacious interior compartment for storage of the seemingly endless paperwork and other large personal gear that is a required part of any officer’s day.

Every working cop should be carrying a good quality blade on duty, but many do not. Dozens of police-oriented folding knives are on the market. Be sure to get one that has a locking blade, and an ambidextrous pocket clip. Most folders in this category use a traditional stainless steel, which is pretty soft, so include a knife-sharpening kit. Most officers prefer a partially serrated blade.

Under $100

When the budget is increased to at least $100, the field of gifts begins to really expand. For many officers, $100 is a substantial amount of money that they will not quickly spend on themselves, so a Christmas gift in this category is one that is sure to be appreciated. With the unfortunate trend of active shooters and other violent criminal incidents, wise officers routinely carry a firearm even when off duty. The officer may have the gun but not a holster that is low profile, comfortable and convenient. Some waistband holsters will even allow for the carriage of the weapon with a tactical light affixed. Some holsters are leather, while others are rigid plastic.

Like a secondary firearm, officers should carry a small, high-quality flashlight as a backup to a primary unit. The thinking for critical equipment is, “two is one and one is none.” These are all going to be LED lights. Expect these lights to be 4 inches overall and produce from 80 to 120 lumens for a continuous hour. Some lights have lower power settings, which extend the runtimes. And some lights have a “strobe” feature.

Luminescent tritium sights are without a doubt the best modification that can be added to any weapon. Assuming that an officer’s duty weapon has not been so equipped from the factory (and that it is allowable under department guidelines), the gift of such an important piece of equipment can be a lifesaver. FBI statistics tell us year after year that most police action shootings occur in reduced or altered lighting. So it is vitally important no matter what time of day an officer normally works that he is ready and equipped to shoot in such an environment. Many companies make this type of glow-in-the-dark sights.

Under $250

Most agencies either provide or mandate a specific pistol for use on duty, however, very few purchase a back-up weapon for their officers. While most forward-thinking agencies have policies regarding their use, most do not select the weapon system for the officer. For years, the back-up weapon of choice was the 2-inch barreled .38-caliber “snub nosed” revolver. Still an excellent choice for such use, the price for new pistols of this type has unfortunately begun to rise to the point where it is beyond the means of some officers.

A number of very small, polymer-framed pistols exist in this price range, or close to it. Expect that the pistol will be a 32 ACP caliber, although very small 25 ACP and 380 ACP caliber pistols exist. These calibers use a center-fired primer, making them more reliable than 22-caliber pistols. You’ll want 2- to 3-inch barrel lengths and a weight around 7 ounces. These will probably be double-action-only pistols with a seven- to 10-round magazine.

Despite the fact that most officers no longer patrol a beat on foot, a substantial amount of time is still spent walking, running or in other forms of activity. Officers’ feet take a beating, which, over a career, can become debilitating. Investing in high-quality boots is one of the most overlooked gifts that can be bestowed on any officer. Yes, the top of the line boots fall into this price range but are well worth it when it comes to comfort, durability and safety. Look for a patrol boot that is waterproof. In cold climates, look for insulated boots. A pair of high-quality boots is something that many officers see as a luxury.

Every officer should have a bright, durable flashlight while on duty. Although many officers choose the smaller lithium-powered lights for secondary duties, most prefer a rechargeable light for routine duties. The light output will be in the 130- to 200-lumen range. Made with either a polymer or aluminum body, these lights will be 8 to 12 inches in length and weigh 10 to 18 ounces. Look for multiple switching options.

Over $250

While some tools are not inexpensive, many are actually worth much more than their price. Over the past several years, there has been the trend in law enforcement for agencies to provide—or at least allow—patrol officers to carry rifles while on patrol. While many departments provide such a weapon, many others authorize the private purchase of an approved rifle.

The AR-15 is the most prolific rifle of this type. A wide variety of companies make this type of rifle, but not all of the manufacturers are equal in parts or production quality control. You are looking for a rifle with a 16-inch barrel, a collapsible stock and a detachable carry handle. Get three or four spare magazines. This law enforcement patrol rifle will be fairly expensive, but it will reliably serve an officer for a lifetime.

Along with the patrol rifle itself, or if the officer already has an AR-15 type rifle, consider two kinds of weapon accessories. One is some kind of “red-dot” optics. This is not a scope. Instead, it is a non-magnifying, battery-powered reflex sight. Many makes exist. Since this will go on a police rifle, go for the maximum durability and simplicity.

The other rifle accessory is a weapon-mounted light. Years ago, these had to be big and heavy to produce enough light for “rifle” scenarios. No longer. Some 200-lumen weapon lights are now relatively small. With these lights, turning them on and off while holding or aiming the rifle is a major factor. Pay special attention to the switch! Some lights are better suited to an optional vertical grip, while some are the best when mounted to a rail. Expect both the accessory rail and vertical grip to be extra cost options.

As with the rifle itself, ask the gun shop owner, the department’s firearms instructor or gun-savvy friend for help with the red-dot optics and weapon-mounted lights.

Of all of the items one could consider as a gift, the one that truly shows just how much you care for that someone special is the gift of body armor. Nothing is more personal to an officer. Nothing is a bigger piece of life insurance. Body armor is responsible for saving lives and serious bodily injury from gunfire. However, body armor has also protected the officer from the blunt trauma inflicted by clubs and other impact weapons, as well as blunt trauma from car crashes, which kill and injure a significant number of officers each year. While body armor rated for bullets is different than body armor designed to stop knives, ballistic armor will minimize the slicing threat from a knife also.

Many companies produce body armor. Each has a number of different styles from which to choose, and each of these styles has a different “threat level” rating. Check online for a list of body armor that has passed the government’s latest standards or is on the list for the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program.

It is important that an officer selects body armor based upon fit, personal comfort and known threats that he will face. So it will be important that your officer is specifically fitted for this gift. Without a doubt, no other present that you can give this holiday season will contribute to bringing an officer home safely more than the gift of armor.

The holiday season comes but once each year. No matter what your price range, a carefully thought out gift will be long remembered. The piece of equipment will give the officer many years of improved comfort, capabilities and protection.

Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He and his partner, Sergeant Mick Williams, provide contract instruction on a wide range of subjects, including tactical and patrol-based skills. He can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Dec 2008

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