The answer to this question is not a simple list. What you will need to buy your first year on the job varies depending on what agency you work for and its policies.
If you work for some agencies, they may issue you everything you need, including a knife, a backup gun, and an off duty gun. Others are known to give their sworn personnel exactly one item: a badge. The rest must be procured by the new officer and paid for with his or her equipment allowance and with personal funds. Some agencies let their officers make their own choices as to what gear to carry, including sidearms. Others dictate exactly what you can and can't carry.
So to help give you some insight into what you'll actually need on the street, the editors of POLICE Magazine contacted a number of veteran officers and asked them to give you some advice. Here's what they had to say.
Let's assume that your new agency will issue you a uniform. They will likely issue you a patrol uniform, a dress uniform, and maybe even a battle dress uniform (BDU). At the very least, they will probably specify the make of your uniforms and order you to buy them with your equipment allowance.
But you're going to need a lot more than a uni on your body when you hit the field. You are signing up for a profession that truly believes in the old postman's code. And you will be working in rain, sleet, snow, frigid cold, and searing heat. It comes with the territory.
The first step to making yourself more comfortable on the job is having some good outerwear. Start your search with a look at these offerings from 5.11 Tactical and Elbeco.
5.11 TACTICAL MULTI-JACKETS
Available through almost any major police supply company, 5.11 Tactical's multi-jackets are the ultimate in patrol outerwear versatility. The line includes the 3-in-1 Parka, the 3-in-1 High-Vis Parka, the 4-in-1 Patrol Jacket, and the
5-in-1 Jacket. Think of these jackets as providing instant layering against the elements. Each one can break down into lighter weight garments or they can be built into heavy snow and sleet shields. They also offer protection against rain. Some even come with ANSI visibility panels so that motorists will see you at night.
ELBECO MODULAR OUTERWEAR
Like 5.11 Tactical, Elbeco makes just about any apparel that you will need as a patrol officer. One excellent product that stands out in the company's outerwear line is its Meridian Modular Jacket. Made of 100 percent nylon Taslan, the jacket is water resistant, and it can be configured for a variety of conditions ranging from a light chill to freezing rain.
Some agencies may tell you what model and brand of boot you have to wear. Others will probably specify that you have black boots of a certain height. Either way, make sure that you have really good ones. Being a police officer is really hard on your feet, even if you are more likely to spend more time in a car than walking a beat.
Also, make sure they fit. You may be able to save a few bucks by buying boots over the Web. But it's best to buy them in person and try them on. And when you do try them on, wear the socks that you will wear when wearing the boots.
You want your boots to be comfortable, waterproof, and have plenty of grip. Here's a quick look at some of the leading manufacturers of patrol boots for law enforcement officers.
5.11 TACTICAL LAW ENFORCEMENT BOOTS
Although it's best known for its line of tactical apparel, 5.11 also makes an excellent line of footwear. Key 5.11 boot models include the HRT, the Haste, the ATAC Shield, and the new Garrison. The Garrison is designed for warm weather duty, and it features a CoolMax lining, a shock mitigation system, and a Drilex lining for moisture protection.
BATES UNIFORM FOOTWEAR
Bates is one of the world's largest manufacturers of military and law enforcement boots. The company's offerings range from dress shoes to paratrooper boots. One of Bates' most popular models is the 8-Inch DuraShock. This boot is available in a variety of models for both men and women. Some models have Gore-Tex to keep the wearer's feet dry. All have Bates' DuraShock technology, which is designed to absorb the shock of every step and reduce pressure on the wearer's knees.
BLACKHAWK PRODUCTS GROUP TACTICAL RESPONSE BOOT
This manufacturer of tactical gear and apparel has expanded its line to include footwear. BlackHawk's boot models include the Light Assault Boot, the Black Ops Boot, and the Tactical Response Boot. The Tactical Response Boot was designed for SWAT, but it can easily be worn on patrol. Its features include a friction reducing liner, tough Vibram soles, and a lightweight design.
DANNER DUTY BOOTS
One of the most popular makers of duty boots, Danner also makes footwear for hunters and work boots. The company's product line includes numerous models in a variety of heights, some with steel toes and other special features. Danner's Acadia 8- Inch is a good representative of the company's duty line. This boot features Gore-Tex to keep the wearer's feet dry and Thinsulate to keep the wearer's feet warm. It also has a Vibram sole for great grip.
MAGNUM ELITE SPIDER
This year, Magnum is expanding its product line to include apparel, but the company is known for making great boots. Its footwear line includes high and low boots with a variety of features and construction. The Elite Spider, Magnum's new patrol boot, was designed with an emphasis on light weight and comfort. It is 20 percent lighter than any other boot in its category. It has a tri-density compression- molded EVA midsole usually reserved for running shoes. It is constructed with a full-grain/action leather upper with highly breathable aero mesh for superior ventilation. Magnum's Spidermesh inner lining absorbs and moves moisture away from the skin. The Elite Spider's proprietary Vibram outsole is designed to be flexible while generating less noise and a higher level of grip. The Elite Spider comes in black three-, five-, and eight-inch styles to accommodate operators and LEOs that want to match their boots with different ankle support needs.
ORIGINAL S.W.A.T. SEK 9000 BOOTS
Despite the company's name, you don't have to be a SWAT operator to wear Original S.W.A.T. boots. The company's line includes six- and nine-inch models suitable for both patrol and tactical operations. Original S.W.A.T.'s newest model is the SEK 9000. This boot has a lot of features, including a moisture- wicking lining, rustproof hardware, a self cleaning Multi-Tred Vibram sole, and a removable orthotic footbed.
A recent POLICE Magazine poll revealed that more than 93 percent of American law enforcement officers wear soft body armor while on duty. The reason is simple: More than one percent of officers in the same poll had been shot in their body armor while on duty.
Each year more than 100 officers are killed on duty, either by acts of violence or in traffic accidents. Body armor can mitigate the effects of both of these cop killers.
That's why many agencies issue body armor. Others specify exactly what you should buy and give you money to purchase your own. (Be warned, however, that this allowance usually falls about $100 short of what it takes to buy the armor.) And some, usually very small agencies, leave it up to the officer to buy his or her own.
Here's a quick look at some of the newest body armor available from some of the leading manufacturers.
FIRST CHOICE ARMOR THIN BLUE LINE
The Thin Blue Line incorporates First Choice Armor's trademarked CoolTek mesh and microfiber weave for greater comfort. Other features include a new Hidden Zipper system that extends the life of the carrier by reducing the friction that an exposed zipper receives from duty belts and gear. It's available in NIJ Level II and IIIA protection.
GATOR HAWK ARMOR VANQUISH
The Vanquish series vest meets the 2005 NIJ requirements for residual energy dispersion and ballistic protection. The carrier is constructed of poly-cotton and 500-denier Cordura and lined with Akwadyne cool mesh for comfort.
MSA FORCEFIELD ALPHA
Most officers who are killed or severely injured while wearing soft body armor are shot in the side. MSA's Forcefield Alpha vest provides enhanced side protection and a non-slip design. The versatile jersey-style carrier can be worn with or without a T-shirt. In addition, MSA's Tri-T comfort system wicks away moisture and reduces odor.
POINT BLANK HI-LITE PERFORMANCE SYSTEM
The NIJ Level II and IIIA Hi-Lite Performance System is now available in the new SS2 microfiber carrier, which reduces pulling and bunching of the uniform shirt. The carrier features eightpoint side strapping with low-profile Velcro straps for a customized fit.
SAVVY BODY ARMOR FOR WOMEN
Although a number of companies, including U.S. Armor, make body armor for women, Savvy, a new company under the Armor Holdings umbrella, which includes American Body Armor, Safariland and Second Chance, is the only company that makes body armor only for women. Savvy uses soft aramid fibers that conform to a woman's curves, and its vests are specifically designed so that women with large busts can use MOLLE attachment systems and pockets in the carrier.
U.S. ARMOR ENFORCER XLT
U.S. Armor's Enforcer XLT has been selected as the vest of choice for all officers and agents who work for the
Homeland Security Department. The Enforcer XLT combines two ballistic fibers-DuPont Kevlar Comfort XLT and Honeywell Goldflex-for comfort and flexibility. It's available in NIJ Levels IIA, II, and IIIA.
The term duty gear is a catch-all that refers to your belt and all the various pouches, containers, and holsters that you will need to hold your weapons and equipment in the field.
You will need at least the following: a belt, a holster for your duty gun, a spare magazine carrier, a baton carrier, an OC holster for your pepper spray, a handcuff carrier, and a radio carrier. You will also need keepers to prevent this stuff from sliding around. The basic duty gear combination is going to cost you anywhere from about $100 to more than $300, depending on composition and quality of workmanship.
The good news is that some agencies provide this stuff. The bad news is that what they provide has usually seen better days. You will want to upgrade if your agency will let you and you have the funds to do so.
By far the best thing your agency can do for you regarding duty gear is to pay for it and let you get your own. Just remember when you buy your own duty gear that it must adhere to your agency's policies regarding retention level, color, finish, and construction. Also, make sure that it fits and that it's comfortable. You will be wearing your duty gear eight to 10 hours per day.
We don't have enough space and time here to discuss all aspects of buying duty gear. So let's take the time and space we do have and discuss holsters for your duty gun.
Almost all duty holsters have some form of weapon retention. This used to be nothing more than a strap that snapped over the hammer of your pistol and perhaps a screw that you could tighten to secure the weapon more firmly in the holster. The latest generation of duty holsters have actual mechanical devices that "lock" the gun in the holsters, usually by grabbing the ejection port or the trigger guard.
Here's a quick look at some of the leading retention holsters available for duty guns. Before you buy one of these, make sure that your agency permits them.
BIANCHI DUTYLOK AND PATROLTEK
Before we talk about the DutyLok, we need to mention that Bianchi makes a line of duty gear (cases, pouches, radio carriers, etc.) called PatrolTek (pictured) that offers good quality for the price, and you should check it out. Unfortunately, there are no retention holsters in the PatrolTek line. The most popular Bianchi retention holster is the DutyLok. This holster is available in a variety of finishes, and it features both a mechanical release and a manual thumb break.
BLACKHAWK SERPA SERIES
The BlackHawk SERPA holsters are designed for a quick and natural draw.
They feature a release on the side that is quickly accessed by the shooter's index finger during his or her draw. Made of carbon fiber, the SERPA series is really durable and looks sharp.
DON HUME SECURITY HOLSTERS
Oklahoma-based Don Hume Leathergoods makes a wide variety of duty gear. The company, which is known for really sharp looking duty leather, makes holsters with level one, two, or three retention. They are available in black with plain, basket weave, or hi-gloss finishes. In addition to its duty holsters, Don Hume also makes a wide variety of concealment holsters suitable for off-duty carry.
SAFARILAND ALS HOLSTERS
An Armor Holdings company, Safariland supplies more holsters to law enforcement than any other manufacturer. Safariland's latest innovation for duty holsters is the Automatic Locking System (ALS). The newest ALS holsters are constructed of a polymer called Safari- Laminate. They feature a hood and a mechanical retention system that locks into your weapon's ejection port.
As a police officer, you are joining a profession, not just doing a job. Professionals are expected to perform their duties at any time during the day, not just during their shift. That means that you will need the tools of your profession readily available to you at all times.
The tools of the law enforcement profession are a gun, handcuffs, and a badge. If your agency permits you to carry these tools off duty, do so. If not, consider working for another agency.
Some agencies actually issue a compact or subcompact version of their officers' duty weapons to be carried as a backup gun on duty and as an off-duty gun. If yours doesn't, you'll have to pick up one for yourself.
There are so many backup gun and off-duty gun options that just mentioning them all would fill this entire magazine. But one company in particular that makes outstanding lightweight, relatively inexpensive off-duty weapons bears mention here: Kahr Arms.
Few weapons reviewed by the gun writers of POLICE Magazine have ever received higher marks for quality and price than Kahr's CW-9 and CW-40. These 9mm and .40 S&W pistols are accurate and reliable, and they make great off-duty guns.
The best backup guns are smaller versions of your duty gun. The advantage to this combination is that you can exchange mags and ammo between the two pistols and that can be very important in a gunfight. That said, many veteran officers carry .38 snubbies, .380 automatics, and a variety of other small pistols as backups.
You will also need holsters for your off-duty and backup pistols.
What you carry off duty and as a backup is a matter of personal choice and agency policy. Just remember to follow your agency's policies regarding qualification and use of these weapons. That way if you have to use them, you will do so within agency policy.