Being a law enforcement officer means knowing your equipment inside and out. The more experience and training you have, the more you learn what you need. We need primary tools to protect ourselves, such as our vest and other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). We have communication devices, defensive tools, weapons, and the trusty pocket knife. In addition, we have multi-tools as well as other gadgets that would make Batman envious. So here are some unconventional tools that officers should consider having in their patrol vehicle or go-bag.
Dog Biscuits – You will encounter a pooch or two throughout your career. I would wager that most dogs are friendly. They want attention from the new human that just walked into their lives. So having a few dogs treats handy to give out to friendly dogs makes you seem like a good and genuine person. You are not only building rapport with the dog; you are establishing credibility with everyone around you. Some people form strong opinions over how people treat animals.
Of course, not every pup encounter will go well. Sometimes we encounter dogs that are aggressive, scared, injured, or simply unpleasant. I was recently dispatched to a welfare check on an older Marine veteran. He had a dog named Ace, and Ace was like something out of a cartoon. He barked, snarled, and stared at me with his one good eye. Ace’s other eye looked like it was right out of the Edgar Allen Poe story, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” His personality was as charming as Cujo. You get the idea. Ace is the sort of dog you don’t turn your back on. Lucky for me, I keep dog biscuits in a pocket on my vest. Medical was able to enter the scene, the Marine got the care he needed, and I made a new friend.
Moist Towelettes – Even before Covid’s fears swept the nation, it has always been a good practice to keep Wet Naps or Wet Ones in your kit. Constantly we are put into situations where we have to touch and be around gross things and people. I am sure we ALL always remember to glove up when we need to (sarcasm) so let’s focus on other applications of these lifesavers. /having the ability to wipe down equipment, your uniform, and boots after a particularly nasty situation keeps you looking professional. It also helps prevent infectious diseases spread by blood-borne pathogens and other bodily fluids.
There is a good community policing aspect to using moist towelettes; Being able to offer someone the means to clean themselves goes a long way. It helps restore dignity and shows that you respect them as an individual. I remember dealing with a young man in crisis that others in my agency had dealt with before. It was summertime, and he had been walking along a county road all night and well into the morning. I stopped and started to speak with him, offering him water and a few Wet Ones. I still run into him from time to time, and he remembers that encounter.
Water Bottles – Of course, water bottles are suitable for us to keep hydrated. They serve the public as well when we deal with them. It costs very little to throw a case of water into your vehicle, and it is well worth the return on the investment. I offer water to almost everyone I encounter. Good, bad, or indifferent. There is the apparent hydration aspect. A water bottle can go a long way in getting some mutual respect. Offering someone the means to rinse off their hands or face or give them a cool drink on a summer day can turn the tide for an officer. If you still insist on carrying OC spray and don’t carry water in your vehicle, are you even a human being?
Cigarettes – I know that it’s 2022, and everyone is fully aware of the dangers and health risks. However, a good chunk of the people we deal with smoke. I know quite a few officers that smoke as well. It is a habit that I once partook in, but have since kicked. I do still keep smokes in my vehicle. I know most smokers you encounter, good or bad, will have their own. Offering one of your own to them will go a long way in building rapport. It also serves to slow people down. It’s not necessarily the cigarette itself. They are slowing down their breathing to inhale and exhale the smoke. Approach this case-by-case and follow your policies. I just know having a pack on hand has helped diffuse enough situations that I see value in having them around.
I was dealing with a man that had trouble keeping his hands to himself during an argument with his spouse. I offered him water, and he told me to go self-fornicate. It was blistering hot outside, and he had none of what I was saying. He wanted to fight. He knew what was going to happen. I knew what was going to happen. Even the neighbors knew what was going to happen. So I offered him a cigarette. He took a deep breath, his posture changed from hostile to docile, and he licked his now drier than the Sahara lips. “Ya, and can I get that water too?” He went calmly into handcuffs and in the back of my vehicle.
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