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Departments : Officer Survival

Duty Belt Deconstruction

Make the tools around your waist accessible and comfortable to wear.

March 01, 2004  |  by David Kleinman

Consider carrying your handcuffs on the front of your duty belt. This way you won’t have to reach behind your back to access them, a move that could give a suspect a chance to escape or attack.

The little things in life can make the biggest difference. Checking the air in your tires before a long vacation or cleaning the filters on your furnace could prevent a catastrophe. The same goes for officer safety. While some safety measures may seem insignificant now, they might actually save your life someday. Start by looking at your duty belt. Did you configure the items on it because they work best that way for you, or because everyone else does it that way? If you give it some thought, you might decide to move some things around.


What item do you use the most? Chances are it's your handcuffs. If so, where are they? More than likely they are behind you. If you use handcuffs the most, shouldn't they be the most accessible item on your belt?

Try moving your handcuffs to the front of your belt. Besides giving you better access to your handcuffs, this position has other advantages. First, it keeps your hands in front of you should your arrestee decide to attack you. Many violent suspects look for any advantage when deciding to assault you and having one hand behind your back could be just the opening they're looking for.

Wearing handcuffs on the front of my duty belt is also more comfortable, I've found, because the cuffs can't dig into my back when I'm sitting in my patrol car.

Another reason I prefer to carry cuffs in front is that when reaching for them it never looks like I'm going for my gun. If you carry your handcuffs behind you on your strong side, then your hand must pass by your gun to reach them. While you know you're just going for your cuffs, your suspect and others around might wonder what you are reaching for. While this might seem like just window dressing, I believe it's best-for my safety and for the impression it can give the ever-present media-if my hand never moves toward my weapon unless I intend to draw it.


Where do you carry your impact weapon? Is it even on your duty belt? As an officer trained in the use of batons, I carry one at all times when on duty. My department's use-of-force continuum includes impact weapons, so I make sure I always have mine available when the situation calls for it.

If I find myself dealing with a violent suspect in a scenario where an impact weapon strike would be the appropriate level of response, any other alternative would be viewed as inappropriate or unjustified. Shooting someone because "I didn't have anything else to use" won't be an acceptable excuse in any court or use-of-force review.

If your baton is on your duty belt, is it where you can get to it? When you reach for it with your strong hand will you be able to deploy it smoothly and safely? Straight batons and side handles have the advantage of being useable right out of the ring, so no matter which side of the duty belt you carry one on you can use it quickly.

Carrying an extendable baton on your weak side allows for easy extension in a low arc as you cross draw.

Expandables need to be kept where you can remove them and then swing them hard enough to deploy. To decide where to place yours, think about how you deploy it. Usually it's necessary to swing an expandable baton in an upward motion first to extend it before you can then bring it down to strike a target. If you are bringing the baton up to shoulder level or above with your strong hand, there's a danger of striking an "inappropriate" target in a stressful situation. Think about keeping your baton on your weak side. A cross draw will expand the baton in a low arc so you won't have to raise it as high to make it useable. This also affords you the opportunity to either step forward or backward on the draw.

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