So there I am, at the end of a long set of nights contemplating my well needed train sleep, followed by the seemingly endless paint, brick dust, plaster and noise that I've been dealing with for the last few weeks. I'm looking at my belt kit hanging neatly on the cubicle door in front of me and my body armour sitting on the floor, and it reminded me of a post I put up a little while ago about the Growth of Policing. More specifically, the lines "You can identify them (newbies) by the amount of fancy new equipment they carry. A ten billion candlelight power torch, pens that write in the rain, a ballistic vest rated to stop tomahawk missiles, and an equipment bag large enough to house a squad of marines"
It probably will not come as a surprise that I was indeed one of those kit monsters, I don't think being an Army sprog helped much as I was surrounded by new and shiny kit that did stuff my whole life. I was looking through some old photos at my parents a while back and there is one of me as a five year old wearing webbing, a bergen, a helmet, and a pair of Scooby Doo pants.
Anyway.... I'm not quite sure when the change to carrying less kit happened or whether it was gradual or not, but I remember a time in the not too distant past when I had so much kit on my belt that nothing moved and there were no spaces between the items on there. The fact that over the years I've had ankle, feet, back and posture problems directly attributable to wearing belt kit and a vest, probably spurred me on to ditch some of it.
When I was at training school there were a number of kit catalogues going around and people were buying things that at the time seemed pretty cool, but in the long run were a complete waste of money. Whilst moving a lot of stuff recently I found my old stash of 'kit porn' as it has been called and there are catalogues for (in no particular order) Niton, Protec, 5.11 Tactical, Arktis, USMC, RVOps, Oakley and Under Armour. I'm not sure whether I've bought something (or a few things) from each one, but the probability is quite high.
On my belt kit I had - Issued handcuffs in holder, spare fold up cuffs in holder (handy when you've got 3-4 bods and only two of you there), CS in holder with ultra strong lanyard, a first aid pouch with face shield and steri wipes, a pouch for gloves, a 'probie pouch' with all the forms that would fold up easily, a rescue knife for cutting seatbelts with window punch, a leatherman, a 4 cell maglite and loop holder, a mobile phone pouch, a radio (heavy brick type) holder, multi positional baton holder, a 'key silencer' hanging thing, glove clip (seriously) and lastly a small bottle of alcohol gel on a clip.
At the time my force did not issue body armour so on the (good) advice of the guys on my team I bought my own and wore it routinely, as they all did. I thankfully was never shot, but it did stop a couple of nasty slashes to the gut and chest, a screwdriver stab to the back and also took the impact of a couple of fat drunk screaming heffers stamping on my back whilst wearing stilettos. In my body armour pockets I would have yet more forms, my notebook, diary, a supply of normal pens, a packet of dextrose energy chewy things and a pen with a torch in the end so I could write in the dark.
When I was posted to a panda I also took along my 'shafted bag' containing books and emergency food in case I was stuck on a post somewhere, in which I would also put my folder with every conceivable form (for statements, sudden deaths, traffic accidents etc) and also a spare torch.
As you can tell, I carried an awful lot of crap around every single day, most of which was only used occasionally at best.
Nowadays, I now only carry on my body, things that I am required to by SOP's (such as my personal protective equipment) and items that I occasionally need immediately to hand if I'm dealing with something. Everything else is either slung on the back seat in a bag or someone will bring it out if desperate. On my belt I've got handcuffs, CS and baton - all in met issue holders, a leatherman, an airwave clip, a belt loop for my public order baton (saves taking it off every time) and a pouch with a few pairs of gloves and a field dressing.
In my body armour I've got my stop/search forms (the new Met ones are soooo much better than the foot long home office approved piece of crap that takes ages to fill out, and are funnily enough like the old ones I used to use) my notebook, diary, a couple of pens, my mobile phone and a £3.50 LED torch from Millets.
Neither my baton nor my CS see the light of day for more than a couple of times a year (if that) as they are virtually useless, but if I don't carry them and something happens then I'm up the proverbial creek. My cuffs are the most used and indeed useful piece of kit, the leatherman does its intended job of fixing Police cars and bikes, opening packets of food, and occasionally as a ligature knife and seatbelt cutter upper. I have to stock up on gloves quite regularly but more worryingly, I've gone through a dozen field dressings on members of the public in the last four months thanks to numerous violent assaults, a stabbing, two glassings and a nasty RTA. I would be surprised to have to break one out every 3 months or so only a few years ago.
As I said earlier wearing lots of stuff on my belt kit buggered my back up a bit, as most coppers find, which is probably the main reason after realising they don't need most of it, they stop carrying it all. At present the Met doesn't issue chest rigs unlike most of the other forces in the country, mainly due to cost and also because of disagreements about evidence of wearing weight around the hips. I've also heard lots of senior ranks (in my old force) say that they don't like chest rigs because they look "too militaristic". The fact that the military learned over two hundred years ago that a man could carry more weight, and for longer, if it is moved from his hips to his chest and that it prevented back injury in the process, is completely lost on them.
There are officers who don't carry any kit around with them, mostly CID who don't want to be 'shown out' at the pub but others who simply choose not to. One of the Inspectors at my nick is a proper old school SPG/TSG (basically first riot teams through to present ones) who occasionally goes out in a civvie jacket when he's bored with nothing but an ear-pieced radio and a pair of cuffs. Every now and then he'll call up for a bod for us to deal with but he still gets stuck in when he can. I asked him why he didn't take anything out with him and he said "I've still got all the kit the job has ever issued me, even my cape. And then I've got the two fists that the streets of London taught me to use. After 30 years doing this bollocks, I know which has never failed me"
Fair comment, I think.