Essentials for the patrol officer

     When firearms, protective vests, holsters, flashlights and safety equipment are in discussion, they catch attention. But what are officers carrying besides safety equipment? The items in cargo pockets, shirt pockets and on the duty belt also should capture attention. Accessories such as gloves, monoculars, multi-tools and GPS devices deserve a closer look.

Patrol gloves

     Officers wear gloves to protect their hands from various environments. Some gloves have added features, such as barrier resistance, designed to protect the wearer from bloodborne pathogens. Others have cut resistance, usually from an added layer of ballistic material.

     Gloves with extra barriers can be less breathable and too warm for hot climate wear. Conversely, the cold weather officer must select a product warm enough for winter wear. Whatever the need, the first rule about patrol gloves is to wear them from the moment officers log on to the end of their watch.

     Select gloves by safety, dexterity and comfort. Officers should always check if they can shoot wearing the gloves. Most manufacturers recognize this attribute and make precurved fingers and police gloves without seams on the fingertip. Police gloves are form fitted so the thumb and pointer finger can stretch completely apart for grabbing and supporting the weight of the upper body. More importantly, the material doesn't bunch up at the web of the hand for full contact on a firearm, baton or steering wheel.

     Padded knuckles aren't necessarily for personal defense. Anyone who has done any barricade shooting or moved along a cinder block wall will appreciate this protection.

     Barrier protection, usually made possible by a membrane lining, is a bonus. While science has provided better membranes, they still do not breathe as well as plain leather gloves. The membranes do, however, make gloves more water resistant.

     Cut resistance expands the capabilities of the patrol glove. While many envision the purpose is to allow the officer to go hand-to-hand with a knife-wielding individual, the cut-resistant liners are most handy around chain-link fences and traffic collisions that expose sheet-metal.

     Some cut-resistant fibers are itchy, especially when wet. Wear them for a while in the store — the patrol glove should be comfortable enough for the whole shift.

     Puncture resistance is at the pinnacle of glove design. Usually placed at the palm and fingertips, this feature should be mandatory in specialized environments like processing centers, prisons and probation enforcement.

     This protection is most commonly accomplished by fibers woven tightly enough to prevent an ice pick or needle from entry — making the glove a little more expensive, but worth every dime.

     Every glove offers some protection by adding a barrier over the skin. The lightweight leather or leather and fabric models are adequate for most patrol duties. Pathogen protection and puncture resistance should be added depending on the risk of exposure to the officer. Remember gloves are tear, puncture and pathogen resistant, not proof.

Surgical gloves

     Using gloves all the time is not being overly cautious. Statistically, a life-threatening exposure can be as dangerous as a driving or use-of-force injury. Taking advantage of the stabilized moment and donning an extra barrier is pure common sense.

     HIV used to be the catchphrase for law enforcement fears. Actually, Hepatitis C, a pathogen spread by blood contact, is just as scary and many times more common. An estimated 80 percent of the drug-using prison population nationwide is at risk for Hepatitis C at any given time. The estimate for HIV is less than 20 percent. Hepatitis C can live outside of the body for up to seven days. A person can have overt flu-like symptoms on initial exposure, which then can go dormant for up to 25 years. Many people have Hepatitis C and don't know it.

     An officer who contracts Hepatitis C may never receive compensation after being debilitated by the exposure many years later. Additional risks include hepatitis A and B, MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), and HIV.

     Officers should carry latex or nitrile gloves fitting over leather patrol gloves without stretching them to the point of tearing. This means purchasing oversize surgical-type gloves and using them any time the officer has to go "hands-on."

     If the patrol glove gets a blood splash, certain antibacterial soaps, according to manufacturer's recommendations, are sufficient to put them back in service. Keeping sanitizing wipes close by can't hurt either.

     Extra-thick surgical-type gloves are handy for a variety of tasks besides life-saving protection for the officer. For example, clean gloves facilitate evidence pickup and avoid cross-contamination. Put two gloves on the dominant hand when picking up evidence smaller than fist sized, like 1/4 kilogram of methamphetamine. While holding the evidence, pull the outside glove off the hand and completely over the evidence, reversing the glove. Write on the outside of the gloves for identification. Later, the uncontaminated seizure can be transferred to a container according to department procedures. This is handy for the officer who may not have evidence bags in his cargo pocket, but he certainly has a half-dozen gloves.


     Being able to see a far distance is excellent for officer safety. For a hazmat spill, staying inside the patrol car upwind with a pair of binoculars is the smartest approach. Scoping a street before approaching a call may relieve the officer of later heartache. However, most officers leave the binoculars behind because they are too bulky to stick in a cargo pocket.

     A monocular is a mini telescope. Designed for short-term viewing using moderate magnification, officers should carry one that has enough magnification to view a license plate in the dark the distance of a football field. High-quality optics of this size usually range from 5x to 8x and have a field of view that will take in about 300 to 350 yards at 1,000 yards and still weigh fewer than 10 ounces.

     New manufacturing techniques and coatings have produced durable, water-resistant products producing crystal-clear images. Lightweight monocular products fit easily in the shirt pocket. The binoculars may stay in the patrol car, but the monocular will stay in the foot pursuit.

     The patrol officer's monocular should be able to survive a vigorous downpour. What distinguishes one from another is the quality of the coatings on the lenses. Like most safety equipment, the rule is, "carry a lot, use a little."


     Having a pair of needlenose pliers on the belt is as handy as a 44-ounce coffee cup that fits in a cup holder. Folding pliers with tools in the handles have become very popular on patrol.

     Detectives recognize the utility of being able to handle the corner of an object without leaving trace evidence like a fingerprint. Without multi-tools, patrol officers would not use their Phillips blade when searching a vehicle, flathead blade for prying or place etched rulers in scene photos.

     Pliers on patrol have added an additional protective barrier to the officer. Stainless steel is easy to clean and sterilize, making biohazard handling easier. Pliers are perfect for prying up a floorboard, tightening a loose nut or clipping a wire. Additionally, a potentially caustic material is for the "claw" in the hand, not the gloved hand.

     Manufacturers have added the one feature officers really needed: one-handed opening, which makes the multi-tool as handy as the tactical knife. Several products come with full-length serrated blades.

     Put the patrol gloves on when selecting the multi-tool. The tool should be maneuverable, from sheath to hand, with the gloves.


     Many dispatch centers are Graphic Information Systems (GIS) capable. Because of this, communicating a patrol officer's location using latitude/longitude can be more efficient. The need for individual patrol officers to have GPS capabilities has grown astronomically in the past few years.

     GIS is the integration of geographic data and geographically referenced information for the purposes of monitoring, capturing and communicating information in an organized manner. For dispatch, GIS can integrate map data and call data on the same screen, allowing a visual representation of an area of responsibility. When combined with real-time GPS data of deployed units, governmental agencies can monitor the efficiency and make time-critical decisions.

     GIS is not limited to mapping capabilities. Because the data is integrated, one can use the intelligence to make deployment models, essential for homeland security planning, and integrated map/database models, useful for integrating planning structures like traffic engineering.

     GIS information is created in layers of data. For example, a crime-mapping model for a certain investigation overlaying train and bus stations can be viewed with an overlay of government buildings. Some information can be collected for a certain project; other information could be gleaned from existing data. The integration of GIS can only be limited by human imagination. Thus, critical incidents within a city area could be overlaid with a map of the subterranean tunnels and manhole cover locations.

     GPS can be used for resource management during critical incidents. Using a data-logging GPS tool, the agency can track the location of vehicles or personnel, depending on their policy. Data logging using key chain-sized units, like the Super Trackstick from Trackstick, can provide an agency with integrated mapping data such as speed, location, direction and time, and can be downloaded from the device or seamlessly placed on a Google Earth screen.

     GPS data logging generally does not provide a real-time location of the officer, instead providing data at time intervals. The advantage is the available data can be applied toward fleet management and beat structuring. Monitoring location information of a unit can be especially liability friendly to the officer and agency.

     Issuing data-logging instruments to officers can drastically increase an agency's capability for critical incident documentation. For example, search and rescue teams can be issued a Trackstick per team. When it is time for resupply/debriefing, teams can swap their Tracksticks out. Their data logging can immediately and systematically answer post-deployment questions.

     Real-time location also is essential for patrol use. An aviation or maritime incident may require geolocation using GPS. Rural patrol should integrate GPS, whether over the radio using verbal coordinates, AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) or through some other automated system.

     The patrol officer can benefit from many aspects of GPS location. First, mapping city and county address parcels is only as reliable as its data input. In many municipalities, city employees routinely report updates to the parcel address system. For example, if a single-family home becomes a duplex, some parcel systems might report this as a "1/2" to the original address. A GPS address that distinguishes the location of both entrances would resolve this problem. If a large business composed of several buildings relocates their main office or security office, that location may not be in the call history.

     Officers whose jurisdiction can't be broken into parcels especially need GPS. These include railroad enforcement, harbor patrol and military installations.

     While agencies will probably purchase GPS locators for vehicles and data-logging products, individual officers will use personal GPS products. The technology is advanced enough to put GPS capabilities into a wristwatch. For the urban officer to take up a shooting position on another building, the wrist GPS is the way to go.

     Technology has raised the ante for officers needing geolocation. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has become more popular. With enhanced 911 (E-911), the location of the caller is automatically routed to dispatch as soon as the call is made. For most systems, this is limited to landline 911 calls. Because VoIP calls are digital, they cannot go directly to the dispatch center. In fact, some VoIP signals are separated and reconstructed seamlessly to the receiving caller. VoIP calls go to a priority call center that routes them in an emergency, which is commercially maintained. A dispatch center that is E-911 capable is a governmental entity.

     Because VoIP and cellular calls may not be tethered to a piece of real estate, it may be more time efficient for officers responding to have a longitude/latitude position location to which they respond. They could update their location by checking their wrist computer.

     The patrol officer carries a lot of things already. This list of patrol officer essentials should give the working officer some good ideas about essential equipment.

     Editor's Note: For facts on Hepatitis C, visit To learn about GIS and GPS/GIS integration, visit or

     Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches Administration of Justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California.