While these police hacks may not have been addressed in the police academy, they are useful in everyday patrol life
There are countless examples in the civilian world of highly effective life hacks
– simple little tricks such as placing a small flashlight behind a
gallon of water to create a broad light to fill a room and using
toothpaste to polish brass.
Similarly, there are a lot of very
clever police officers who have come up with little "tricks" to make
life out on patrol a little bit easier, none of which were covered in
Here are five of my favorites. Add your own ideas in the comments area below.
1. Put a mouthguard in your pocket
I once had a defensive tactics
instructor who always carried a mouthpiece in his front pocket. He was
worried about having a tooth knocked out in a fight and if it looks like
there might be a problem brewing during a confrontation, he would pop
in the plastic football mouthguard. That’s good, sound, practical
Of course, you don’t always have a chance to put in the
mouthguard, but it never hurt to have it in your pocket. The interesting
side effect of that for the instructor, and as I found out, for me, was
once you pop a football mouthguard into your mouth no one really wants
to give you any trouble. It’s almost like racking a shotgun. You get
their attention and give them a moment to consider their situation and
all the fight could go out of a suspect.
2. Keep a personal daily diary
When I first started in police work, a supervisor told me to keep a personal diary
and a day timer. It was a way for me to keep track of some of the major
events of the day and also document how much exercise I was getting. I
found that once I had to write down the details of my workout, I rarely
A quarter century later, I still make a notation in
my day timer of how far I ran or if I went to the gym. It also helps
when I’m asked what day I completed a particular assignment and I have a
notation in the day timer. If I buy it with my own money, my employing
agency can’t demand that I turn it over to them under normal
3. Keep some change handy
in the days before smartphones, one of my academy instructors suggested
we keep a roll of quarters in the console of our car at all times so we
could make a phone call. Now it’s a good idea to keep quarters handy
for everything from parking a surveillance vehicle to having enough
change available to buy a bottle of water.
A ten-dollar-roll of
quarters may not go as far as it did 25 years ago, but it’s still enough
to buy you a snack when you forget to bring any cash and you’re stuck
on an extended surveillance.
4. Try flashing a tactical smile
simple tactic doesn’t cost a thing. When in a confrontation that
appears to be rolling toward a physical assault, sometimes it is
unnerving to a suspect if you simply start to smile.
just be enough to give you a few seconds to step back and reach for a
secondary weapon. A good smile could make the suspect think about things
just long enough that he or she decides it’s not worth it. It may not
be as effective as a mouthguard, but it’s not a bad backup.
5. Use the belt-and-suspenders method
back pain is one of the most pervasive and serious problems career law
enforcement officers must face. There are a few answers to this dilemma
aside from eliminating what might be important tools from easy access on
One possible cheat, if it is acceptable to your
agency, is to disperse the weight with suspenders. There are models that
can be modified to be worn under a shirt but over a ballistic vest. Transferring some of the weight from your hips to your shoulders
can have a tremendous effect on your long-term health. Aside from
wearing proper footwear with good inserts, this the most important life
hack a patrol officer could use to ease chronic back pain.
are just a taste of the life hacks cops use every day. Knowing your
surroundings, the potential for danger and the tools you have for
dealing with that danger are still the most important safety devices a
cop has at his or her disposal.
This article, originally published on 3/4/15, has been updated.
About the author
James O. Born started his career in police work as a US
Drug Agent (DEA) and was part of the late 1990s Miami drug war. He then
moved on to become a Special Agent with the elite Florida Department of
Law Enforcement, working undercover and spending eleven years on the
agency’s Special Operation’s Team. He’s also a nationally known author
of nine novels. The — Border War — was co-authored with TV commentator Lou Dobbs. Born’s most recentnovel, Scent of Murder, about a police K-9 unit, was released in April, 2015. Visit his website, his Amazon page, or his Facebook page.