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Why two is better than one

Just as officers should always have a backup plan, they should always have backup gear


Policing is a dangerous business so I recommend carrying two knives so either hand can reach one when needed.

Photo/Marty Katz

Policing is about being prepared to survive in an unpredictable environment. Many times when a crisis occurs, an officer is alone. Knowledge is part of being able to survive until help arrives, as is having the right equipment at hand. When it comes to gear, here are 10 examples of when two is better than one:

1. Every officer should carry a primary weapon and a backup weapon (if department policy permits), hence two firearms. Note that the primary firearm should have a tactical light attached. For both the primary and back up weapons, there should be at least two reloading devices.

2. Every officer should have at least two flashlights available. While one is on the primary weapon, I prefer to have one small flashlight on my belt or in my pocket and a larger one to light up the night. Remember, no checking a DL with the light attached to your firearm.

3. Always carry two sets of handcuffs. Many times more than one person is arrested during the same incident. Also, everyone should take a creative handcuffing class to understand better the use of having more than one set of cuffs.

4. I recommend carrying two wallets and leaving both in the patrol vehicle. Officers should have one wallet for your police credentials and one for everything else. There is never a need to flash your badge when buying groceries.

5. If an officer wears eyeglasses or contacts, a second pair of glasses must be available. In the FBI shootout in Miami in 1986, one agent lost his eyeglasses, and this caused a suspect identification problem.

6. Taking notes, writing reports and issuing citations all take lots of ink. Keep a second pen nearby.

7. Policing is a dangerous business so I recommend carrying two knives so either hand can reach one when needed. Also, it is essential to be able to open the knives with one hand.

8. Officers should carry two handcuff keys – one to be used regularly and one hidden. The hidden key is in case an officer is taken hostage.

9. There is always a need to have two sets of police vehicle keys. Sometimes the vehicle must be left running and the officer is outside of the car.

10. Keep a second set of uniform or plainclothes available. There are occasions when an officer might need plainclothes for a quick operation. There is also a need for a second uniform as many things can happen to the uniform the officer is wearing.

other times when two is better than one

1. When conducting any search of a person, vehicle or building, always search a second time. If an officer can’t search a second time, have another search the second time. If you find an item, keep searching.

2. Read all paperwork and submitted reports a second time, or get another officer to play devil’s advocate to review your work. A second pair of eyes is always a better way to check all work.

3. Thirty-one states and Washington DC currently require a front and rear vehicle tag, which means they need two. These states are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington DC.

4. Finally, always try to have a backup plan. Do you know what you will do if your radio fails or the scene you are on turns horribly wrong?

Please feel free to add to this list to help keep each other safe.

Note: Department policy may determine the equipment you carry.

Marty Katz is a retired sergeant with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. During his 34-year career, his assignments included field training officer, SWAT team member, undercover narcotics detective, academy instructor street crime suppression unit and supervisor of Recruitment, Criminal investigations and Patrol. Marty is a Florida Department of Law Enforcement certified instructor (Firearms, Defensive Tactics, Driving, First Responder, Ethics and Human Diversity), Expert Witness for Use of Force issues, a member of ILEETA, and past Florida Chapter Director for the International Association of Ethics Trainers In addition, Marty has trained in Japan with the Tokyo Metropolitan Riot Police and is a martial arts instructor.

Marty is owner and chief instructor of Crimewave Solutions, a training company for officer survival and common sense self defense. His first book, Past the Uniform, was published in 2008.

Contact Marty Katz