7 investments worth every penny for law enforcement

Since the average cop's budget often comes down to pennies, what expenditures of our personal funds are truly worth the investment?


As the Mega Millions jackpot nears $1 billion, the Police1 Editor-in-Chief and I were ruminating on the possibility of winning the lottery and what we would do with all that cash.

It was nice to dream for a minute, but we quickly settled back into the reality that we will likely still be counting our pennies after some other lucky citizen becomes the next mega-millionaire. The fact is you have more chance of being struck by lightning than winning the lottery. With a half-decade of experience on this planet, I know which of those fates Karma would be more likely to bestow upon yours truly. Note to self: Buy some rubber-soled boots. 

Back to counting pennies. Since the average cop's budget often comes down to pennies, what expenditures of our personal funds are truly worth the investment? Here’s my list:

The only way to become truly knowledgeable and competent is to absorb as much information as possible.
The only way to become truly knowledgeable and competent is to absorb as much information as possible. (Warren Wilson)

1. A bulletproof smartphone case

Maybe not actually NIJ-rated, but tough enough to handle the rigors of the job while protecting the phone from impacts, dust and water. Cops today use smartphones for much more than calling each other to plan a lunch break. Many departments use software for tracking officers’ positions, silent dispatch and messaging, which can be accessed through smartphone apps. That makes us and our partners safer.  Protect the device as well as it protects you. 

Police1 resource: Leveraging the power of smartphones in policing

2. Books

Your department cannot and will not educate and train you enough. It’s not possible. The only way to become truly knowledgeable and competent is to absorb as much information as possible. Books are the most cost-effective way to do that. These are the ones I recommend to everyone:

  • "Inside the Criminal Mind" by Stanton Samenow
  • "Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement" by Kevin L. Gilmartin
  • "Fighting Smarter" by Tom Givens
  • "The Dark Side of Man" by Dr. Michael Ghigleiri
  • "The Newhall Shooting" by Mike Wood
  • "Left of Bang" by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley
  • "The Death of Expertise" by Tom Nichols
  • "Leadership and Training for the Fight" by Paul R. Howe
  • "Extreme Ownership" by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
  • "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle
  • "Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights" by Jim Cirillo
  • "Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect" by Jack L. Colwell and Charles Huth

There are so many others but I believe these are the staples every cop should read. 

Police1 resource: Why a cop’s ongoing education is a matter of job security

3. Own-time, Own-dime training

The best thing I ever did for my firearms skills was to attend a Rangemaster Training Services class with Tom Givens. I took Tom’s Instructor Development class with the intent to immediately begin teaching handgun license courses for the state. I knew I could do a better job than most who were teaching the classes. That was, until, I actually took the class. I saw what “better” looks like and I found out that I wasn’t there. 

Don’t get me wrong, I did pretty well in the class, but was not even in the top three of the best shooters among the 20 or so folks who attended. If I recall correctly, all of the students who outshot me were not law enforcement. Pain and humiliation are our greatest mentors. 

Police1 resource: 3 things to consider when taking a private firearms class

4. Eye protection

A good pair of sunglasses is a must even if you work only the night shift. When I was working nights for about a year, I got called in at 1700 during an Oklahoma summer. The sun was unbearable that evening. Then, due to a staffing shortage, I ended up having to hold over and transport a prisoner across the state that next morning. Our easterly trip back in the early morning was quite the challenge. That cheap pair of gas station sunglasses I’d thrown in the glove compartment a few years early came in handy that day. 

It’s also a good idea to keep a cheap pair of clear shooting glasses in the car for gun calls. There have been a few documented cases of officers saved by their sunglasses after being hit in the face with birdshot or bullet fragments.   

Police1 resource: Ballistic eyewear: See the need for safety

5. Water, a lot of it

I keep one of those metal gallon jugs of water in my car at all times. Occasionally, I crack open the wallet and spend 100 pennies to refill it with a fresh gallon of drinking water from the local convenience store. The worst thing you can be in a crisis is thirsty or dehydrated.     

Police1 resource: Staying hydrated on duty

6. Snack box

When will that call come in that will keep you occupied for the next several hours? At the worst possible time, of course. Having some food at the ready that is not temperature sensitive is a good thing. I suggest a big container of peanuts and beef jerky in an insulated soft cooler.

Police1 resource: 7 easy ways cops can eat healthier on duty

7. Hobbies

It doesn’t matter what that hobby is. It could be hiking, drones, metal detecting, building ships in a bottle (is that still a thing?) amateur radio, reading, running, etc. I took up metal detecting a few years ago. I found an old horse or mule shoe on some farmland. It was both exciting and relaxing. I enjoy the hobby because it takes just enough of my attention that I can’t obsess about work but not so much that it causes undue brain strain. It doesn’t matter what you choose. Anything that takes your mind away from work and gives you some peace is perfect.    

Police1 resource: How hobbies can help officers maintain balance

That’s my list. What’s on yours?

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