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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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How Much is on Your Duty Belt?

Stop and take inventory of the items you carry around your waist.

February 07, 2008  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

The other day I stopped and performed a visual inventory of just how many "things" officers can carry on their duty belt. There are times I worry that some have too much on their belts. One worries if they fall on their backs, they could be trapped like a turtle.

Stop and take inventory of what you are carrying around your waist so you can remain effective; I am sure Batman did.

Required Items

If your department has strict uniform policy then this column does not apply to you. I have visited many departments that regulate what will be carried and that is it, end of conversation for their officers. Most departments give you a foundation of minimum required items on the belt.

The holster and ammo carriers, handcuffs, and baton ring were the basic issue in my day. Then the chemical aerosols which are still in vogue today were added, and maybe then a portable radio (which in my day was more of a brick…it did counter balance the revolver).

Nowadays we have changed the requirements. Chemical sprays are now for the most part OC/pepper. The baton ring has become a collapsible baton. Radios have evolved to a more user-friendly size and weight.

New Needful Things

If your department allows additional carriers and accoutrements to the duty belt, just what is out there today? Probably two things have been added without question. One is the electronic control device or ECD (TASER comes to mind for my department). The other is a glove carrier. Nearly every officer I have met carries extra gloves for protection and it is the proper thing to do.

But what are other "things" that are out there? Cell phones seem to be very popular on the belt and have replaced pagers. What is important to remember is to put the cell on a silent or vibrate mode to maintain sound discipline. I'm sure you can imagine an officer on a building check and his cell goes off. Not good. Bottom line, put it on silent.

Knives and sometimes multi-tools are present, but some departments have a restriction on folding knives on the duty belt. I, for one, have a regulation that if you carry a knife on a duty it must be engraved with your name or number. I have carried a folding knife on my belt for my entire career. I know several officers who carry a Swiss Army knife with a variety of tools to consolidate. But I'll stop here. Knives are like handguns; the discussion can go on forever.

Keys are another thing. There is an old saying that you can tell how important you are by the number of keys you have on your key ring.  I only have two suggestions here. Have a backup key in your pocket or somewhere else. Invariably, officers lose their keys and the problem of how to get the patrol car started is solved by a backup key.

Next, get yourself some rubber bands and wrap the keys for noise control. Your next building check, listen for the other cops in the building. You'll be able to hear the jangling of their keys in addition to loud radios and ringing cell phones. No need for anything special to quiet keys; just rubber bands.

There are other items—personal recorders, remotes for on-board cameras, flashlights, and I know I am forgetting others. Don't even start this conversation with a K-9 handler, for their belts have K-9 related items there as well.

Train to Survive

Personally, I don't care just how much you carry on your belt and am not critical of those who are loaded down. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. But, there is a training point here.

Can you find everything and deploy it with your eyes closed or without looking? Can you deploy your weapons without having the draw encumbered by other items? What about the bounce test? In full uniform, jump up and down and see if all items are secured and whether they make noise.

Sound discipline is very important. Your being able to utilize each and every item in a tactically efficient manner is paramount. Train with a purpose, like your life depends on it.


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

dcreed @ 2/8/2008 9:41 AM

Great - would also appreciate any training the rookie insights or other articles on how to properly stage gear on the belt, Hindi method, etc.

donaldgregory @ 2/9/2008 9:44 PM

I've been in law enforcement for almost 30 years and I've gradually increased the real-estate around my waist. I recently saw an officer maybe 21 and his belt was loaded down all the way around his waist. I told him that in 20 years he'll be able to put twice as much stuff on his belt. Personally, I have gradually taken more and more of the bells and whistles off my belt to lighten the load. I try to carry just the essentials. I put the rest of the stuff in my duty bag.

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