We all tend to laugh at suspects who give away their hidden positions by making some little noise, yet we are bigger culprits than they are when it comes to announcing our presence to the world.
As any officer who has ever worked the midnight shift knows, sound travels and night. Every little sound is amplified and your sense of hearing turns into one of your best weapons. Loud party calls are easy to pinpoint, alarms echo from miles and even your car radio can be heard from blocks away. Most officers are aware of this yet they can still be heard a mile away at night. We all tend to laugh at suspects who give away their hidden positions by making some little noise, yet we are bigger culprits than they are when it comes to announcing our presence to the world.
While a suspect's noise might be something as simple as a cough or a little movement, ours are worn to every call on our uniforms. It's our uniforms and our gear that cause most of the problems. How can we cut down on all the squeaks and rattle that make us sound like a Roman army on the march?
1. Turn off those watch alarms and chimes. There's no need to announce to the rest of the city it's 2 a.m. when you're outside your car. Break out the owner's manual and figure out how to shut them down.
2. Lose that change! Loose change rattling in your pocket is one of the biggest giveaways. That 37 cents left over from your late-night coffee can announce your arrival from a block away.
3. Silence those keys. Keys are almost as big a violator as loose change. Many officers carry their patrol car keys as well as their home keys while on patrol. If possible, keep your house keys in your duty bag or somewhere else. If you really want to hit stealth mode lose that leather key clip on your duty belt. Those things still tend to leave the keys dangling and noisy. Try keeping your patrol car keys in your back pocket or wedging them in between your duty belt and your waist.
4. Stop the squeak! Leather gear tends to be very squeaky. Putting a little oil or saddle soap on that Sam Browne once in a while will keep your belt flexible and preserve the life of the leather. It will also reduce or stop the squeak that has become so normal for officers. Also, make sure your boots are up to the task. Leather boots can be very noisy at times, but that problem can also be solved quickly with a little oil.
5. Volume please! Make sure you turn down the volume on your portable radio when you get out of your patrol car. It's always at the time you need it the quietest that your fellow officer will announce he's going to code-7 over the air! If your radio volume is up, everyone in the block will know that Denny's has police protection for the next 30 minutes.
6. Tighten up your duty equipment holders and cases. Pepper and spray cases and baton holders can be two of the noisiest. Make sure your cases are a good fit for the equipment they are holding. If possible, tighten them down or replace them altogether if the problem just isn't fixable. If your expandable baton is rattling a lot, as they tend to do, take a trip to your department armorer or an educated co-worker. Usually they can be easily fixed with a little TLC.
These are just a few of the many ways to quiet down your uniform and gear. They may seem like little things, but they make a world of difference during the nighttime hours. It's a great feeling to sneak right up on someone in the act of a crime because he or she couldn't hear you. The look on their faces makes it all worth it! Hopefully, these tips will help you to experience that feeling a little more often and, more importantly, keep you safer on those long midnight shifts.
Dan Pasuale works for the Tracy (Calif.) Police Department in central California where he is currently assigned to—you guessed it—midnight patrol. This is his first contribution to POLICE.