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Equipment check: Tips for setting up your duty belt

Part one of a three-part series

By Marty Katz

Welcome to corrections. You will be provided with certain equipment with which you will perform your job. Some other equipment you may purchase on your own, as long as it meets with agency policies and procedures.

Review your policy and procedure manual prior to random purchasing. Most equipment after use is non-refundable and many of the items you will want to purchase are expensive.

The equipment you will have is divided into three groups: your duty equipment, your patrol vehicle equipment, and your personal equipment (on and off duty). You will get quickly familiar with all your equipment because each piece will be a part of you for your entire career.

Your Duty Gear...
The first part of this three-part series is pertaining to your duty equipment, commonly known as your duty belt. During the years, I’ve adjusted and readjusted my duty equipment and due to my research have enlightened many other agencies to change some of its policies over the placement of duty belt equipment.

Everything has a proper place and is tactically placed. At any given moment I can reach out and bring into play anything that I carry. I’ve found some officers under stress have confused items on their duty belts.

One officer attempted to place his OC spray can into the open magazine well of his firearm during a stress-induced scenario. This officer was so stressed out that he reached for the wrong piece of equipment and upon realizing his error became even more stressed.

This could be a fatal mistake out on the streets.

The goal of proper placement of duty belt equipment is to assure you that everything can be located and ascertained as second nature. In other words, you do not have to think once you decide to reach for any item.

Likewise you can return each piece of equipment to its proper place without taking your eyes off the suspect or what you are doing.

In addition to the proper placement of your duty equipment, you must understand the function of each piece and how it is to be operated.

Without prior warning, I would call five officers into the station. I would then take the five to the indoor gun range and have them draw their duty weapon and fire four rounds into a target.

This was to determine if their firearm charged, the weapon functioned correctly, they had the correct ammunition and whether they could hit the target. Some officers did not have a round in the chamber of their semi auto pistols.

The majority of officers had no problems or difficulties with this drill. But if one of the problem officers was your back up, there could be a situation that did not end well. This became a wakeup call for all.

Standard duty belt placement is important. Each item is placed in a specific place for tactical and ease-of-use reasons. Starting from the front center and moving towards your strong side, the first item from the center point is your handcuff case. This is placed here so that it can be accessed from either hand.

I always carry two sets of handcuffs. There are double handcuff cases, or you can simply carry your second set in your rear pocket, either side. The reason for the handcuff case in front is that there will be no reaching when needed.

The cuffs can be brought into place as a defensive weapon during a physical altercation and since this is the perfect location, there is no reaching around to locate.

I have seen a number of officers carrying their handcuffs behind their firearm. If your weapon was out, covering a subject, and you need to retrieve the handcuffs, you have to either holster the weapon or use your strong hand to obtain the cuffs.

Not a good idea.

Next to the handcuff case is my OC Spray. Again, it is accessible by either hand and the transition from spray to firearm is easy when utilizing this location. I can also spray from the case if necessary.

The next item is my firearm. On either side of the holster is a belt keeper. This will help secure the holster to my body and with the proper handgun retention, and a triple secure holster, the weapon is protected.

The firearm I carry also has an attached tactical light. I keep nothing behind the holster. There have been reports of police equipment moving on the duty belt and sliding behind the holster, and depending on the type of holster, this item prevented the weapon from being drawn.

Also, no equipment would be placed around the rear of my duty belt. Reason number one being if anything was behind me during a physical confrontation, I would have to disengage one hand and reach to obtain this piece of equipment. Reason number two? Well, if I fell and landed on my back, an item in this location might cause a back injury and that might take the fight out of me when I needed it most.

The rule here is that nothing is around your back.

Going back to the center point and moving toward your non firearm side, the first item is your magazine pouches. The magazines are facing forward and nothing is blocking the quick removable and reloading of these important tools.

The next piece of equipment is my cross-draw TASER. The reason for cross draw is that it can never be confused with your firearm. In addition, the TASER can be drawn when in cross-draw location by either hand. On either side of the TASER are my belt keepers.

Next item is my portable radio. A long time ago, I decided to wear a tactical ear piece that also had a microphone built into the ear piece. For the longest time, people thought I was talking to myself.

With the ear piece secured by a small strap around my ear and under the ear lobe, this has become a critical safety tool. Only I can hear what is being transmitted.

Too many times the bad guy hears something pertaining to them over the radio while standing next to the officer and the fight is on. When I am on a perimeter position or searching a structure, even if the radio traffic is limited, someone always breaks in at the wrong time and gives away your position.

This way, with the secure ear piece, safety is enhanced.

After the belt keeper is my collapsible baton followed by one last keeper. This completes my duty belt, but not my duty equipment; I place a folding pocket knife in each rear pants pocket.

I prefer an auto-opening knife.

No matter what hand is occupied, I can still reach for a knife if needed. Since the knife is auto, it will open with just a push of a button. In combat situations, time is of short supply.

I carry a handcuff key attached to one of the belt keepers and a second one in my left back pocket. One of the drills I teach is how to get out of handcuffs if you are taken hostage.

Of course standard equipment whenever the uniform is being worn is the ballistic vest. If the uniform is on, the vest is on. When assigned to the criminal investigation unit, the vest was always next me on the front seat.

If we had any prior notice of taking any police action, the vest was immediately put on.

From day one, I have always carried a back-up firearm. Some prefer the same caliber and make of their primary duty weapon.

Others prefer to carry a smaller revolver or smaller semi auto. Either choice, make sure it is carried in the same place every day. Many officers carry the backup weapon attached to their vest while others carry the weapon in an ankle holster. No matter what you carry, you must have an additional load devise.

The loading devices for a semi auto type weapon are carried in the front pocket weak side and the revolver type weapon is carried in the front pocket strong side.

In my left front pocket, I carried a small flashlight because you just never know.

There are a number of other items that can be carried. Pens that are designed as knives, pens that are really handcuff keys, the list goes on and on. What we covered here were the basic equipment each officer should carry and its proper placement.

Stay aware, and stay safe.