Archive for the ‘Police Tools and Equipment’ Category
In the days before semi-automatics took center stage in the world of law enforcement, police officers carried revolvers as their weapons of choice. Cowboys called them six-shooters, and many modern gun buffs often refer to them as wheel guns. Shooting enthusiasts love them. Even Deputy Barney Fife, one of my favorite all-time cops, carried a revolver while keeping the good folks of Mayberry safe and sound.
Why, then, if everyone loved revolvers, did police agencies make the switch from six-shooters to semi-automatics? Well, the answer is simple—law enforcement officers were often outgunned by semi-automatic-toting bad guys.
Most revolvers are capable of firing only six rounds of ammunition before needing a re-load (there are exceptions). Semi-automatics can pop off fifteen or sixteen rounds as fast as a shooter can pull the trigger. Therefore, during a gun battle officers had to reload two or three times before the crook emptied his first magazine.
Needless to say, reloading a revolver during a shootout was a problem.
Cops back in the pre-semi-auto days (me included) carried spare ammunition in rectangular leather containers called dump pouches. Dump pouches typically hold six bullets, or so, and are attached upside down to the officer’s utility belt.
To access the extra bullets, officers simply unsnapped the pouch cover and the contents “dumped” into their waiting non-gun hand. The officer then fed the individual rounds, one at a time, into the open slots in the revolver’s rotating cylinder. Needless to say, this is far easier said than done when someone is shooting in your direction.
In the photo above, Barney’s left hand rests on one of the two dump pouches on his utility belt. His index finger touches the other. The deputy-in-training also carries two dump pouches on his duty belt. Both are directly below the ticket book. Release snaps are clearly visible near the bottom of each pouch.
*Note – The thin vertical leather strap (with center snap) located to the right (your left) of the deputy-in-training’s belt buckle is called a belt keeper. Its purpose is to attach the duty belt firmly to the regular dress belt. Keepers are used to prevent the gun belt/duty belt from sliding down over the hips. In the above photo the keeper is there, but it’s obviously not used properly.
To solve the problem of slow reloading came in the form of speed loaders. Speed loaders hold six rounds of ammunition that are perfectly aligned with the bullet slots in a revolver’s cylinder. A twist of a knurled knob on the end of the speed loader releases all six rounds at once. Shooters could now easily and quickly re-load their revolvers in tense situations, even in the dark.
Revolver, speed loaders, and speed loader pouches. The pouches attach to a police officer’s duty belt.
A revolver’s cylinder is designed to swing out for reloading. The knurled button between the hammer and the wooden grip is the cylinder’s release button.
Speed loaders position rounds so they line up perfectly with the bullet slots in the cylinder.
A twist of the knob in the officer’s right hand releases all six rounds at once.
Speed loaders are a wonderful tool. However, they don’t solve all revolver woes…
In addition to pistols, handcuffs, pepperspray, and flashlights, deputy sheriffs who work patrol duty are normally assigned a take-home car as part of their standard equipment.
Deputies are allowed to park the cars at home because the areas they’re sworn to protect are vast, unlike city and town police departments, and they’re often called into service at odd hours and even during their days off. Therefore, it’s to everyone’s advantage for the deputies to have their rolling offices at their immediate disposal—response times to emergency calls are quicker and the high visibility of patrol cars in the community serves to deter crime.
And, believe it or not, officers take better care of a vehicle if they alone are responsible for its upkeep, which translates into department budget savings.
A deputy’s car is normally marked with the logo and lettering of their department, which sometimes includes the listing of the sheriff’s name. In the photo above, the star on the car door indicates it’s from the office of Clark County, Ohio sheriff Gene Kelly.
Points to remember:
- Sheriff’s are elected officials who appoint deputies to assist in carrying out the duties of their office. There is only one sheriff per department, and he/she is the boss. The other employees in uniform are deputy sheriff’s.
- Many sheriff’s and police departments require that hats be worn when outside the patrol vehicle, especially during traffic stops and public functions. It was a requirement that I despised, but it was what it was. I didn’t mind wearing the campaign hat (pictured above), but having to wear one of those bus driver type hats worn by many police officers was, well, just not cool.
The light bar on the vehicle’s top features white or clear takedown lights (front), and side alley lights. These lights are merely white spotlights that’re used to illuminate specific items, areas, and/or people, during traffic stops and other situations. The bar is also equipped with red and/or blue emergency lights. Some light bars are equipped with speakers for the siren (many siren horns are mounted in the front grill area). Other light bars contain hidden radar antennas. The positioning and style of light bars depend on the individual department policies.
The trunk of a patrol car is for the storage of evidence collection material, a defibrillator (not all departments issue defibrillators), extra ammunition, rain gear, flares, emergency signage, accident and crime scene investigation equipment, extra paperwork, riot gear, etc. Again, department regulations may determine the contents of the trunk.
Mobile Date Terminal (MDT), and various controls for radar, siren, lights, radios, etc. The device on the dash (left) is the radar unit. The round, cylindrical object to the right of the device is the radar antenna.
The spotlight is controlled by an arm that extends from the outside, through the “A” post, to a rotating handle and on/off switch. Many officers (me included) hang an extra set of cuffs on the spotlight handle for quick access during emergency situations.
Shotguns are mounted in various places inside patrol cars. Sheriff Kelly’s department has chosen to mount theirs above the Plexiglass partition between the front and rear compartments. Shotguns are normally locked into place electronically to prevent outsiders from getting their hands on the weapon.
A Plexiglass screen separates the driver’s compartment from the rear seat area. The glass in these dividers is not bulletproof. However, not so long ago in Savannah, Ga., someone shot at a police car during a pursuit and the bullet lodged in the Plexiglass directly behind the officer, saving his life.
When I first went to work for a sheriff’s office our cars were not equipped with dividers/screens. And, since we normally worked solo, it was sometimes a real chore to drive while controlling a combative person from the point of arrest all the way to the jail.
Handcuffs alone are not always to enough to stop someone from punching, kicking, biting, trying to grab your gun or the steering wheel, etc. We never could convince the sheriff that we really needed those screens. But we managed. Of course, it sometimes took a few gentle taps with a flashlight or blackjack (taps were directed to the unruly crooks, not the sheriff), but we got the job done.
A microphone allows the deputy/detective/supervisor to relay commands through a built-in public address (PA) system.
Once at the sheriff’s office, or annex as in the image above, deputies may attend roll call to receive their daily assignments and updates on the current status of “the streets” as reported by the previous shift.
*I had the pleasure of spending a few days at the Clark County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office while conducting research for a book. It took me all of one minute to discover that Sheriff Gene Kelly’s department is second to none. Thanks to you all for your dedication to a job you do so well.