I had a reader call me the other day with a question about equipment. He was a new officer and wanted to know if he should purchase a knife or a multi-tool, and could I suggest something for him. I am a "knife aficionado" and my immediate response is to get a few of each. But this is not prudent and I know some departments are still jittery on this topic. So here are a few suggestions.
Maybe it was due to my upbringing; my father showed me about knives. He always had a good sharp one in his pocket, and I am no different. But working around the house and being a cop are different job descriptions.
I recommended a good police utility knife to the reader who called me. One that has a combination blade: a serrated and traditional blade combined in one. What is important here is the term "utility knife," not tactical or fighting knife. I am speaking here of a folding knife that fits into a sheath or pocket. I am not talking about a straight blade knife worthy of a mercenary.
Administrators will appreciate this distinction, as will trainers. In the daily grind of police work, you will need to cut crime scene tape, packing evidence, and so forth. The serrated blade can be used for cutting seat belts, ropes, or other heavier tasks. Follow your departmental guidelines here. Some describe these folders as tactical knives, so again check your rules.
When these came upon the market, I think every cop wanted one. It was a toolbox that could be easily carried on the belt or in the ready bag. I cannot recall how many times I have used mine. These pliers combinations are nearly required in your boat, camping equipment, car glove box, and so forth. They make sense for street cops to have for those special needs.
On the other side is the Swiss Army knife. Yes, I have a few of these, too. (Please do not ask my wife how many knives I have). These are compact, been used for years and are a reasonable answer for the cop's briefcase. There are a variety available out there. Picking the right combination for you can be a task, but fun!
Compromise on Function, Not Quality
Recently I have found a compromise for the young officer who doesn't know which knife is right for him or her and wants one good solution. The caller did not have money to get one of every knife and wanted one basic knife. Gerber has developed the perfect compromise and, yes, I have one in my ready bag.
I recommended the Gerber Obsidian folder (www.gerberstore.com). It has a small locking blade partially serrated (combination) blade. The handle holds a Phillips screwdriver, file, bottle opener, and flat screwdriver. This is a great little package of cutting and multi-functional use. Check one out if you can't decide if this is a viable solution for you.
Reality of Equipment
Before you purchase any equipment for the job, consult your department's rules and regs. I don't want you purchasing equipment that you can't carry or could get you into trouble. Yes, price is a consideration, as well as quality. But the most important consideration should be your needs or job requirements. Fitting the right tool to the job is paramount.
Remember, use the term "utility knife," for referring to what you're carrying as a "tactical knife" could lead some to believe that it is solely for defensive purposes and legal quandaries could arise.
Now go out and find the right knife for you. Selecting the right equipment is half the fun.
Train Hard and Train Smart.