By Micki Browning
Just as 007 has Q, every police department has its gadget gurus—albeit without the secret lair. Even officers not prone to spontaneous spending often find themselves afflicted with GAS—gear acquisition syndrome. If Gall’s features it in its equipment catalog, they have to buy it.
Depending on the size of the agency, police departments usually provide the essential equipment officers need. Rather than keep an inventory of pants and shirts, many departments issue a uniform allowance paid once or twice a year—which, in my case, conveniently coincided with the December holidays. But even with issued equipment and a uniform allowance, it’s not enough. Officers are willing to spend boatloads of cash to obtain the latest, greatest (fill in the blank) to enhance their safety, comfort or cool quotient.
Case(s) in point:
Flashlights. The first flashlight issued to me could have been used by Nancy Drew. Over the years I’ve accumulated Maglites, Streamlights, full size, pocket size, rechargeable, battery powered, lights for my guns, and even a small light that attached under the flap of my uniform pocket that I could focus on my notepad. Let’s face it. Cops hate being left in the dark.
Guns. This being a blog and not a dissertation, I’m skipping this. Suffice it to say, guns are a cop’s ultimate gadget. As such, just about every cop has at least one personal handgun, most have a collection. Some could arm a small nation.
Pens. We buy them by the bagful and give them out like candy at Halloween. Some of the people we ask for signatures have cooties that even Lysol runs from. “Keep the pen. Consider it our gift to you.”
Handcuffs. The Peerless Handcuff Company is the go-to company for cuffs. Their swing-through arm revolutionized restraints and law enforcement has been using their products for a hundred years. Every officer is issued a set of handcuffs, but sometimes, crooks come in matching sets. Thus, it is the rare (and dare I say foolhardy) officer who only carries a single pair. For variety, Peerless has hinged cuffs, chained cuffs, leg restraints, waist restraints, oversized, and for the fashion conscious, colors. Yes, you too can own pink handcuffs. No, you shouldn’t.
Sunglasses. The ultimate in cool. I hate to break it to the aviator fans among you, but since 1984, there’s only been one choice. Oakleys. To this day, they are the only sunglasses I own.
Body armor air conditioning. I have to confess, I retired from law enforcement before this was a thing. But wearing a ballistic vest on a hot day sucks. No way around it. Imagine the layers; a wool uniform shirt on the outside, a ballistic vest, and then a sweat-soaked t-shirt next to your skin. Bonus if you’re a woman—add another layer for the bra. Now picture yourself in Albuquerque, Phoenix, or in a little old lady’s home where the thermostat is set to a balmy 97 degrees. Makes you want to go right on out and sign up, no? The patrol car becomes your sanctuary. Crank the A/C and feel the heat ripple off your body as the cool air—oh, wait. Nope. Too many layers. No worry, CoolCop to the rescue! This device funnels air from the air conditioning vent to an attachment that hooks on the front of an officer’s uniform. Reminiscent of being hooked up to a vacuum hose, it looks geekier than all get-out, but officers swear by it. Confidentially, of course.
The list of items goes on and on. And no matter how many times training officers tell their rookies to wait until they’re off probation before they start hoarding shiny items like a crow on coke, it rarely deters them. After all, it’s easy to justify spending money to enhance our safety and comfort. Plus, it’s essential to look cool.