8 steps for maintaining your duty gear

Keeping your gear in good condition could save your life

The suspect was armed and intended to kill a cop. As the squad lights went on, he pulled over for the traffic stop. The officer approached, spoke with the suspect, and released him. A little while later he was pulled over again. This time, he fulfilled his dream of murdering a police officer.

When questioned, the cop killer said that he didn’t try to kill the first officer because he “was ready.”

That scenario is played out every day in the minds of criminals. They size you up – and part of having a demeanor that implies you are a sheepdog – not a sheep – is your physical appearance. Pressed uniform, leather shiny and in good order. Although you’ll never know who is thinking, planning, and willing to try to take your life, your professional appearance is a deterrent to their plans. 

The condition of your duty gear is important not only in appearance, but in performance. Your gear suffers wear and tear on a daily basis that may go unnoticed. Here are suggestions for maintaining your most critical duty gear.

1. Conduct regular maintenance and inspection
Set a date each year to sit down and give your duty belt a good once-over. What is the condition of the snaps, Velcro or other fasteners? Snaps and Velcro can be replaced at any shoe repair shop. Check and make sure that all the screws are in place and set to the appropriate tension. Check your equipment daily for function and ease of draw before you go on duty.

2. What color is your duty belt?
Most gear worn is black. Yet you will see officers with gear that is brown from age, wear, and neglect. What signal does that send to that potential killer sizing you up? Leather dye will bring the belt back to its original color. If it is beyond that, it’s time to replace it.

3. Keep your keepers in place
Whether you have a Velcro lined belt or not, you still need keepers - a minimum of four and probably more. They secure your holster and other items in the same place so that you can get a consistent draw. A sagging gun belt looks sloppy and gear is free to shift around in a fight. More than one officer has had their belt turned so that the gun was on their back - accessible to the suspect, out of reach of the officer - with tragic results.

4. Inspect your holster
How long have you been wearing your current duty holster? Will it still keep the gun in when a suspect tries to tear it out? Technology changes and holsters have improved. Are all the screws still in place?

A series of draws each duty day keeps your motor skills sharp and identifies any problems with the holster.

Of course, regular cleaning and lubrication of your pistol is also required.

5. Check your chemical agent
When was the last time you replaced it? When you get a new canister, mark the date on it with a permanent marker. If it is over a year old, replace it. 

6. Apply graphite powder to your handcuffs
Just like your gun, handcuffs need regular lubrication. Graphite powder does the trick without being sticky. Oil will hold dust and dirt. A daily check to make sure that they work freely guarantees smooth operation. Make sure they are pre-loaded for easy application. Where are your handcuffs placed? Several officers have been paralyzed from landing on handcuffs placed on their spine. Place them where they can be reached with either hand. Carry a minimum of two pairs.

7. Lubricate your expandable baton to manufacturer’s specifications
Each duty day, draw and expand the baton to ensure function. Regularly apply whatever lubricant the manufacturer recommends to ensure smooth opening. Train with both hands.

8. Function check your TASER
A daily full spark check is mandatory. Let it run the full cycle. Officers who shut it off early have trained themselves to turn the TASER off during real situations with a resulting failure to immobilize the suspect.

A well-maintained, functioning duty belt sends three messages:

•    To the public: “This officer is professional.”
•    To the bad guy: “I am ready, willing and able.”
•    To yourself: “I am confident in my equipment and in my abilities because of my daily preparation and dedication to win any confrontation.”

Sun Tzu wrote, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Conducting regular maintenance of your most critical duty gear can help officers reduce the possibility of getting into a life-and-death confrontation.

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