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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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Off-Duty Carry and Preparedness

A badge and gun isn't enough anymore.

February 14, 2011  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author


5.11 Tactical produces the COVRT 18, as an option for officers looking to avoid identification. Photo courtesy of 5.11 Tactical.

What should I carry off duty? Not again! I get this question nearly every week from readers and students. I believe most are asking for a product endorsement or caliber choice. In today's world, this question is more far ranging than ever.

Many are now transitioning toward a "gear or shoulder bag" or whatever other cool tactical name. I've gone through the badge and gun era, and then transitioned to the fanny pack era. Now, younger officers are in the backpack generation — throughout their school experience, they've had the pack, even more for the military veterans. Carrying a shoulder bag is not out of place in today's world. 

How should you select a shoulder or gear bag? Nearly every gear company has a backpack, slinger-type bag, or shoulder bag in all configurations. Personally, I carry a shoulder sling pack. Nearly every company and cop shop has a messenger shoulder-type gear bag available today in a variety of sizes and carry styles. Many are designed for concealed carry with built-in holster compartments. This is what I carry more and more every day.

Here's my rationale to support this. If I'm off duty and stumble into an evolving event, I'm going to need more than a piece of metal and handgun. Some of these bags reek "cop," so here's a suggestion from a tactical operator colleague. Get a sports team's logo or some designer logo, and put it on the outside of the bag for public view.

Look at the variety of colors that some bags offer; not all of the world wears SWAT black all the time. If a thug checks out your appearance, and observes this could be some designer special, they won't think "cop." It's all about blending in.

So what is in my carry bag? Along with the handgun, it should include:

  • Two magazines of good quality ammo
  • Official credentials case with extra business cards
  • Notebook with pen
  • Handcuffs (flex cuffs cut down on weight)
  • High-intensity flashlight
  • Cell phone
  • Quality police utility knife
  • "DSM" identify banner
  • Hemostatic agent dressing
  • Combat dressing (Army surplus — Hooah!)
  • Tourniquet
  • Two pair, latex gloves
  • A few adhesive bandages for nicks and scrapes
  • Police radio (if in your jurisdiction)

What else could I carry? The list could go on and on. A few others add these items to their bags:

  • OC Spray
  • Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) device
  • More ammo than me!
  • CPR mask
  • Duct tape (handcuff alternative)
  • Multi-tool pliers instead of a utility knife

Tips for your "go bag." Safety and security is the utmost here. Some find it worrisome that their weapon isn't surgically attached to their hip. Many bags have great adjustments in the sling to get the bag in the right position.

Also examine the bag for loops to run your trouser belt through. Some offer additional straps to wrap around the waist for added security. What is important here is to rethink off-duty carry with this system. Normal casual movements with a bag could be awkward, so practice this until you're not uneasy with it.

Then head to the range and practice deploying the weapon from the bag and firing. Also, practice reload and failure drills with the new system. The world we police live in is not for the faint of heart; you must be ready to take the fight to them.


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