Whatever form it may take, it is essential that your patrol bag be stocked with the necessary tools of the trade. Like your radio, your patrol bag is an umbilical cord linking you to the equipment that can save your life. It can also make your job easier and your eight hours more comfortable.
When I was a rookie cop in the early 1980s, I carried a thick, gray, plastic Samsonite briefcase. I had everything I needed in it, and it was nearly indestructible. You could run that case over, as I did, drop it, and kick it. It was also very heavy when loaded with forms. But the important thing was that it worked for me. I carried a more modern patrol bag at the end of my career. It was a black ballistic nylon model I purchased online. See, I can keep up with the times.
Buy Rugged Gear
As with my patrol bag, I always had one main criterion when choosing my equipment: ruggedness. One reason for this is that the cost of gear adds up quickly, and I didn't make much when I started out in law enforcement. My wife always told me, "Buy it if it will protect you." But I wanted to make sure whatever I purchased would last, both for economic reasons and for my safety.
I looked at every piece of equipment critically and tried to imagine how it would stand up to working rotating shifts in rain, freezing temperatures, and being bounced around in my black-and-white. I always wore a dive watch. No, I didn't dive. I chose that watch because it stood up to the abuse I had to give it, and it was waterproof.
It was the same with my off-duty gun, my patrol knife, and all my other gear. The patrol bags I carried had to stand up to the same use and abuse. I didn't want to be buying a new one constantly, and I didn't want one giving out when I needed it most.
Carry Lots of Ammo
I used to stock anything I could think of in that patrol bag, sort of like a hardware store. But first and foremost I carried plenty of ammunition. I remember in the '80s when the FBI had its famous shootout with bank robbers in Miami. One of the decorated surviving agents said afterward, "Carry as much ammo as you possibly can." I never forgot that message.
I carried as many .40 caliber rounds for my Glock pistol and .223 rounds for my AR-15 as I could hump in that bag. I would buy old magazines from the department armorer and stuff them with .223 rounds. I also carried 12-gauge double 00 buck and slug ammo. I cannot overstress the importance of carrying ammunition in quantity. It might take up space, but you'll be glad you have it when you need it.
Stock Odds and Ends
In addition to ammo, plenty of other items come in handy out in the field. For longer than expected shifts, I would put MREs in my bag, summer and winter issue. These are fantastic military meals on the go that I got from Marine buddies. You might want to carry a similar sort of shelf-stable packaged food just in case.
I also carried extra dry socks, reading material, motor vehicle and criminal law books, ear warmers, hand warmers, ear plugs, eye protection, a cell phone charger, pens and pencils, paper clips, spare flashlight batteries, binoculars, 4 x 4 bandages, and any gadgets that I could buy from the latest seminar that I had attended.