What Equipment Do Police Officers Carry? (And Do They Buy It Themselves?)

If you’re a law enforcement officer, you’re obviously doing a vital job that gets downright dangerous at times. Because of the nature of the work, you need to have high quality gear you know will hold up in a stressful situation. Just about anyone could tell you that a police officer will carry a firearm and a pair of handcuffs for apprehending suspects, but beyond that there’s quite a bit more than a typical officer will carry. Let’s first take a look at some of the vital pieces of police equipment.

What Gear Do Police Officers Need?

Before getting to the various tools you’ll bring with you, we need to start with the police uniform. You’ll have various long and short sleeve uniform shirts and likely a couple pairs of uniform trousers along with a belt. For cold weather you’ll have a jacket, likely nylon, and boots for bad conditions. And to top things off you need a uniform cap. Also, don’t forget about one of the most important things you’ll carry, your badge.

Beyond the uniform, you’ll likely have a couple pairs of handcuffs along with a handcuff case, a duty gun with holster, ammunition and a magazine carrier, a baton and baton carrier, pepper spray with holster, and likely more including a knife and backup and off-duty gun. Body armor has become more and more widely used, either as a requirement or at least a strong recommendation.

Do Police Officers Have to Buy Their Own Equipment?

Next, how exactly do officers get all the equipment they need? Many people believe that the department issues all of the gear mentioned in the previous section, but in most cases that’s not true. It’s dependent on the department and its policies, but there are a couple of common methods. Some do provide the “standard issue” major pieces of equipment but leave it up to the officer to choose what remains or whether to replace certain pieces with something preferable. For example, you might get a simple duty bag to carry things in but many officers will upgrade to a tactical pack. Others have strict guidelines as to what its officers need to get. Many departments offer an equipment allowance with varying levels of strictness as to what to do with it. In most cases, though, it will fall short of everything that will need to be purchased. And for some departments, the officer foots the bill for nearly everything.

Departmental policies will also dictate what tools you can carry off duty and thus what extra you might need to pick up, such as an off-duty weapon. The reasons for all of this are several, including the fact that many departments are in tough budgetary situations. Some do not provide handguns because of liability concerns, while others leave it up to the officers because guns and other pieces of tools need to fit the individual officer well and be comfortable, so a standard issue is less than ideal. Gear, from a handgun to uniform shirt, obviously needs to be replaced every few years, and thus a yearly allowance is usually provided. How strict the requirements on appearance and updated equipment will also vary greatly.

As you can see, there are no universal answers, but there are a few general ways that departments and officers will combine to purchase the necessary gear. Other types of organizations such as a federal agency will have even different policies, often with more central control. In general, all officers will need the same categories of gear, but you’ll want to check at the department level for how the specifics are handled.

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