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Gear Guys

In every department or agency there’s always at least one guy who has the latest piece of equipment and will show it to you whether you’ve asked to see it or not. Notwithstanding the fact their duty belt couldn’t possibly hold the countless items they’ve deemed necessary to carry, the added weight would prevent them from ever getting out of their vehicle.

I recall one of my colleagues years ago on Chicago PD who regularly regaled us with the efficacy of a new police item he’d purchased at the nearby police supply store or had ordered through the mail. Some of the thingamajigs he couldn’t wait to show us were interesting; some may even have been useful—perhaps. But for the most part, every new-fangled gadget he’d pull out of his pocket or gear bag was something that me and my colleagues figured we’d never use.

“The Blade,” as he was known because of his slight frame, had a collection of knives that would put any knife dealer to shame. He had switchblades and collapsible knives in varying lengths, serrated and non-serrated edges. Most of us carried a small pocket folder that took care of many things quite handily. The Blade refused to believe that one knife fits all. He had to have a special knife for different duties, for example, cutting a seat belt, jimmying a door or window, or cutting an article of clothing. He was indeed a specialist in edged weapons, except he may have forgotten we were armed with handguns—no need for assault-style knives.

There were no children in The Blade household. I’m not sure why that was the case, except that any money spent on caring and raising children would deplete the capital needed for equipment. You see, The Blade didn’t skimp on police equipment, he had the latest and greatest, and if that meant something he purchased wasn’t the most up to date version, he’d quickly go out and buy the upgrade.

Every so often during choir practice, my colleagues and I gleaned from his alcohol influenced revelations that his spouse wasn’t pleased with the endless expenditures The Blade was involved in. We razzed him about his secretary-wife being the one who actually wore the pants in the family, regardless of how many knives or guns he owned. In a huff, the thin man who barely cast a shadow, puffed up his sunken chest and emphatically declared he was king of his castle.

It seemed the more we got on him about his buffet table of equipment and small arsenal of weapons, the more he purchased. His collection grew so large he had to purchase a huge safe to protect his armory of rifles and handguns. One thing that constantly amazed us was his infatuation with duty weapons. One couldn’t predict which weapon The Blade was carrying on any particular tour of duty. He was influenced by Hollywood and television, making sure he had the weapon de jour. It only had to look good to become part of his stable of guns. The six-inch Colt Python revolver and chrome plated Colt .45 pistol were his most prized weapons. Whether it was a traffic stop, burglary, or suspicious person, The Blade made sure everybody knew he was cocked and locked.

We tolerated our colleague’s extreme, obsessive behavior. He provided us with much needed comic relief with his constant parade of new products. But in more serious moments some of us thought so much of his attention was focused on using tools of the trade he was unfamiliar with, that it detracted from his focus on the job. As we watched him fiddle with knives, guns, speed loaders and different leather goods, we worried that his intimate familiarity with his equipment was lacking. You know what I’m referring to—the need to know each piece of equipment on your person so well that drawing and using it, whether it’s handcuffs, chemical, weapon or a reload, should be automatic.

The Blade couldn’t do that. I’d seen him have difficulty sometimes remembering what and where he was carrying things. He had so many different leather goods that hardly any of it was broken in, and it caused him to struggle getting it out. Often times on patrol when he should have been eyeballing the street, he’d be sitting in the passenger seat playing with or explaining something about his new gear. And even though years ago we only had a fraction of the technology that exists today, his inattention to the job by focusing on some gadget could have meant disaster for him or one of his partners.

I’m no luddite; I recognize new technology, e.g., computer terminals, fingerprint readers, etc., enhance our ability to catch bad guys. My only complaint is the technology is so ubiquitous that our attention to the street has diminished. We eyeball our computer screen, send texts, talk on the cell and run tags, all of which means we pass by places and people without even seeing them.

The gear we carry has increased to the point where moving around and putting our hands on somebody is an effort in and of itself. Chasing an offender down an alley or up the stairs can be challenging even without carrying a load of gear, add the vest to the ensemble and you have an extra twenty pounds to manage.

Gear guys endear themselves to us if only because of their fascination with all things police. Whether it’s a weapon or other piece of equipment you’re interested in, chances are the gear guy has it. He becomes our own subject matter expert. I only wish those types would hone their tactics and instincts to complement their ever expanding bag of tricks.

Stay safe, Brothers and Sisters!


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About The Author:

John M. Wills spent 33 years in law enforcement as a Chicago Police Officer and FBI Special Agent (Ret). He is a Freelance Writer and Speaker whose third book, TARGETED, is now available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Contact John through his website: