Summertime patrol: 5 everyday safety essentials

Protecting you is vital if you plan on helping others, deterring crime, and most importantly, getting home at the end of the day

Editor’s Note:

Editor’s Note: Now that we have “officially” begun the summer season — the heat wave started weeks ago, but the official Summer Solstice was yesterday, June 21, 2011 — let’s all take a moment to refresh our memories on some basic officer safety practices for the long, hot, days and nights of summer. Check out the column below from Lt. Andrew Hawkes, as well as the related resources in the sidebar to the left. Add your thoughts on summertime safety in the comments area below. Stay safe out there.

As I sit here on my patio in the wee hours of the morning after a relentless, non-stop night of bar fights, family disturbances, live grenades found in a closet and your normal major accidents one after another, I’m hot, bothered, and tired from the heat.

Then it hits me. Maybe it’s just the ungodly heat index. Or the full moon. Maybe everyone is restless and pissed off waiting for football season. Perhaps it is all the teenagers that are out of school. Whatever the reason, if you have spent any amount of time on patrol, you’ve come to realize the truth in the rumors about how crazy it gets out there in the summer. You may not be able to put your finger on the cause, but one thing is certain, it’s the truth.

So, there are a few essentials you may need out there on your beat during the hot summer solstice. Protecting you is vital if you plan on helping others, deterring crime, and most importantly, getting home at the end of the day.

A New York City police officer wipes his face next during an August 2006 heat wave in New York. (AP Photo)
A New York City police officer wipes his face next during an August 2006 heat wave in New York. (AP Photo)

Below is a short list of five essential things to carry in your patrol vehicle to get you through the tough times:

#5.) Water
Bring plenty of it. A jug, camel bag, canteen, case of bottles, whatever your fancy, but have it at your disposal. That next foot chase or standing out in an intersection for two hours directing traffic will dehydrate you before you know it.

#4.) Bug Spray
It's an essential, especially here in Texas where I work. If you don’t believe me, you will after you tromp through some high grass and your ankles become the next meal for an army of chiggers.

#3.) Sunblock
Highly recommended for bald guys and motor jocks, who are constantly exposed during daylight hours. Even if you work the midnight shift, you never know when that late call may come in at 0630 hours, and you’re stuck out in the sun till 10 a.m.

#2.) Exercise
If you are not in some type of relatively decent shape, the sun, heat and humidity will whip your butt even quicker. Having stamina and a strong heart is a year-round must, but particularly being conditioned to the heat and used to sweating always help you survive.

#1.) Ballistic Vest
I know, I know, it’s hot as hell, but hey, bottom line: Deal with it. You need it. Your family needs it. No one wants to bury your ass just yet, so wear your vest. And wash the cover at least once a week or your buddies may nickname you Pigpen from your body odor!

One last thing... It’s good to have clean towels. Sweating profusely on a call is like watching that overdramatic preacher on the TV on Sunday mornings. You know, the one whose head looks like it has a waterfall of sweat pouring off of it. Especially with a short hair cut, you will be raining copious amounts of perspiration off of your noggin, and when you are finally able to crawl back in the a/c in your cruiser, the first thing you are gonna want (and need) to do is dry your head off.

These are some common sense guidelines to go by to get you through the summer months. If you’re a rookie, ask those veteran guys for any additional tips that are specific to your region of the country. Then, hit the shower, go home and pop a top or two off your favorite cold beverage and enjoy your summer before it’s time to start bitchin’ about the cold that’s on its way.

Stay safe out there.

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 23-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics, and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Justice Leadership and Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards, including the Medal of Valor. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

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