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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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Little Things To Make Patrol Life Easier

Follow these tips, and you'll be handling the basics like a veteran officer in no time.

August 02, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Have you ever noticed that the veteran officers always seem to have it better or life's little challenges are easier for them than you?

Experience is probably the best teacher in the category of little things that can be a pain in the day at work. The academy instructors maybe mentioned a few and you should have observed your Field Training Officer (FTO), but some things just seem to slip by. What you need to do is learn from experience or discomfort once and apply lessons learned.

Is there a complete list of all the little things? No. But here are a few to make the days better, organized by categories.

When attending training, always bring your own No. 2 pencils, the ones in the box are going to break and have been chewed on by saber-toothed cadets. So bring your own mechanical pencil—you will not have to sharpen it—and bring a highlighter.

On range days, buy some extra magazines of your own to distress loading time. Buy your own eye and hearing protection. Nothing like looking through scratched glasses and ear muffs with hair gel slimed on them.

In your car, carry a good quantity of coins or parking tokens, and make sure they're the denominations that fit parking meters. Nothing like running late for court with no parking change in your freshly pressed uniform pants.

When going to court, call the property room in advance so they can find, rescue, and retrieve your evidence the day before. The later you arrive in court, the deeper the evidence is in the catacombs of the property room.

For rainy day patrol, carry a towel. The city gives you a raincoat to repel water but not all of it. You'll need to dry off, get up spilled coffee or wipe your sweaty brow—any old hand towel will do. Also, pre-moisturized wipes are good for getting ugly stuff off your hands.

Carry a a pocket knife and multi-tool. They require maintenance; a dull knife and rusty pliers are useless.

One little plastic tackle box can store oodles of needful things, such as paper clips, safety pins, chalk, extra pen/pencil, lip balm, few bandages, antiseptic, uniform device clasps (damn-its), extra flashlight bulbs and over the counter helpers (allergy, aspirin and antacids) and other things that make life better. The box keeps it tight, dry and not scattered.

Watch the weather forecast. Even though most local forecasters can't fall out of tree and predict that they will hit the ground, watch them anyway. If they say tonight is cool, take your jacket and gloves; this is the night you are on the interstate directing traffic in subzero weather. If they even hint of precipitation, take your rain gear and towel.

Pay attention to special events in your precinct. You can't rely fully on the department to tell you everything. The night you have the entertainment district is the night it is 'all you can drink night' at a biker bar. Pick up the local entertainment papers and pay attention to fliers—you noticed the veterans took that night off, didn't you?

Never plan a hot date, dinner with the wife or promise Junior you will be at the ball game on time. Just because it has been quiet for the past few days, the great gods of patrol will dump complex calls on you that night. If you're lucky, you might get leftovers and read the ball score in the morning paper.

Returning from days off, always check your vehicle completely. Tonight, when you reach for the fire extinguisher from the trunk, it will have been used yesterday and not replaced.

Always check your flashlight before starting each nightshift, rather than waiting for the first alarm call.

Always refuel your car for the next shift, who knows it might be catching and you will get a fueled-up ride for once.

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

MikeAT @ 8/2/2010 7:30 PM

“One little plastic tackle box can store oodles of needful things, such as paper clips, safety pins, chalk, extra pen/pencil, lip balm, few bandages, antiseptic, uniform device clasps (damn-its), extra flashlight bulbs and over the counter helpers (allergy, aspirin and antacids) and other things that make life better. The box keeps it tight, dry and not scattered.”

I use two clip boards. One is a plastic one that you can store a small number of forms, pens, paperclips, etc. The good news is my department is using digital forms and I keep them on a jump drive which I keep in my pocket. The other is a small clipboard that perfectly fits a memo book and our ticket books. Both clipboards I have Velcro on and it’s attacked to the dash board so even at Warp speed it doesn’t fly around.


Ed @ 4/1/2011 8:30 AM

A decent pair of binoculars, extra socks and a USB Digital Recorder

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