What are the top ten items in your patrol bag that are NOT issued by the department? No, your girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t count!
Department issued versus personal supply
One thing I’ve discovered after being around various police departments for so many years is that some agencies supply everything under the sun, while some don’t know the sun exists.
Fortunately, my department supplied all safety and first aid equipment. As a result, I was not required to purchase too many items needed for daily operations. Naturally, the quality of these items could be up for debate. But in general, they tried to adequately keep us well stocked in everything. This included extra magazines and ammunition in addition to those carried on my Sam Browne.
The downside was that some items were kept in the trunk of our patrol units, such as first aid supplies. Since most departments need to share cars, the gear can get abused. Actually, some police departments have cruisers that never see down-time. They get passed from one shift to another. As such, the gear in the trunk can begin to look like a spoiled potluck if people are not careful.
So back to the patrol bag, here are a few items that I carried in addition to my department issued equipment:
- Purell hand sanitizer. I used a little spray bottle every time I touched something nasty if I didn’t have a chance to prepare with latex gloves.
- Surgical face mask. Not only was it useful for me, but I kept a supply for the “spitters” as well. (Old school note: We could get away with placing duct tape across the mouth of spitters the first few years on the job. Obviously not anymore!)
- It’s difficult to “spy” on potential bad guys from a marked police unit. But a set of Bushnell binoculars came in handy on a regular basis.
- Leatherman pocket tool. It was like carrying a mini-toolbox in my patrol bag.
- Baby wipes. These kind of duplicate the hand sanitizer, but I used them to wipe down the steering wheel and unit microphone before going into service. I also used them on telephone receivers in the station. All of these things can get pretty nasty from frequent use by so many people.
- Quick reference guide to every conceivable social service in the county. You can look like a hero when you’re able to provide a person in distress with useful information.
- Check lists for major incidents. I photocopied protocols from our department General Orders for things like OISs, or SWAT activations. I reduced them on the photocopy machine, then laminated each one and placed them on a ring in my gear bag.
- Tylenol and Tums. I’m allergic to aspirin, so I carried my own pain reliever with me. It seemed like I frequently needed these. Tums occasionally came in handy when I foolishly consumed a Tommy’s burger with chili fries at 2:00 a.m.
- My personal CPR mask. The department issued this item in the first aid kit in the trunk, yet I wanted my own.
- Night vision monocular. Yes, this was an expensive toy, but it came in handy more times than I can articulate.
What is your preference?
There were about 10 additional items in my patrol bag that were eventually replaced by the iPhone, but I won’t date myself by listing them.
What is your favorite type of patrol bag? Do you prefer a suitcase size, or something smaller and compact? Is it an economical bag or something top shelf?
– Jim McNeff
Jim worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the USAF he flew as a crewmember aboard the National Emergency Airborne Command Post—a presidential support detail. Following his military service, he served for twenty-eight years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California where he retired as a lieutenant. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the prestigious Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the IACP course, Leadership in Police Organizations.