FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
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.

Budgets, Needs, and Wants

Just because it's a nifty tool that you could use on the job doesn't mean you need it.

June 02, 2009  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

All right, this is a difficult column for me to write. I know my wife will read this and she will not believe this is from me. All police officers have this thing about new toys. Yes, I am talking about police equipment and life-saving tools of my profession. I call them "needful things" and others call them cool stuff. Yes, police stuff is great but let me remind you of a few pointers.


Check your rules, regulations, and SOPs to find out if you can have this cool item, first of all. Often, we see really nicky neat accoutrements for the job. But, you should ask whether they are allowed for YOUR job. Not every department will allow you to have a (fill in the blank) whatchamacallit. If you cannot legally carry it on duty, why are you buying it?

Harvey rule of life: Do not buy things that are going to get you into trouble.


Budget issues are next. You are the lowest paid as a recruit and therefore don't need to be spending your family budget on your latest equipment whim. A Harvey translation for this is yet another .45 ACP or tactical/utility knife. But you'll have your own definition of what wallet-thinning item is a must have.

You need to weigh criticality versus frequency in making this decision. How critical is it for you to have this widget? Will your life and survival depend on it? If not, reconsider.

Real-world needs and realistic application need to be weighed against wants here. I stay very concerned when I hear of officers investing in "things" when other parts of life should be weighed in on. When you are a recruit you are behind a learning curve, I agree, but the equipment curve can be tolerated somewhat.

Decisions need to be made, so here are some of the questions you should ask yourself to determine how important any cool item actually is to you:

Will I use this widget in the normal course of my duties? In other words, with what frequency will I use this so desired item? If that is low, what is the criticality of it? Is it a life-saving implement such as a secondary weapon or quality utility knife? Is this a whim propelled by bigger gun or cooler widget envy?

Plan your budget. As you get higher in rank with more pay, then go after the handgun or what-have-you with all the bells and whistles.

When you do decide to purchase a new whatchamacallit, remember that proper practice makes perfect. You can't buy accuracy; there is still the need for human input.


Again, seek proper application and proper training with any new police implement. For instance, if you buy a new holster, don't just blush over the directions or give the DVD a fast forward. Seek training if it is available and practice. Tired of practice? Then practice some more.

Make sure you incorporate this new and hopefully approved device into your muscle memory. There is no place for hesitation and afterthought in the application or use of police equipment. Nor is there room for self-doubt of your equipment. Often it is operator error or application; if you are not confident it can and will fail.

Finally, think out, research, and plan all of your equipment purchases. Is it legal, applicable, needed (not a want), is it critical for your profession, and can you afford it? If so, go with a plan. By the way, I bought this really great tactical/utility knife the other day.

Be the first to comment on this story

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Vievu Body Cameras on Patrol with Major Agencies
Oakland PD was an early advocate of Vievu body camera technology and has been using the...
Testing Body Cameras for Image Fidelity
The traditional gelatin-silver image reproduction film process was a very stable imaging...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
Police Magazine