Police officer equipment ranges from the everyday essentials to specialized tools, each improving police outcomes in its own concrete way
As with any occupation, policing requires the proper tools for success. But with policing, the stakes are much higher. These tools carry the weight of justice, life and death.
Officers must be outfitted to provide first aid, collect evidence, interview persons of interest, secure an area, subdue an assailant and more. That’s why law enforcement equipment ranges from cameras to protective gear: The officer must be prepared for anything.
There are also specialized requirements for certain kinds of policing, from tactical responses to K9 deployments. While the needs of every officer are different, this guide will help you determine what equipment your officers need and how specialized grants could make acquisition more affordable.
Everyday law enforcement equipment
Police officers can become highly specialized, with each specialization requiring its own set of tools. But even among beat officers and other generalists, police officer equipment includes more than what they bring into the field. These tools form the foundation of the officer’s kit and help law enforcement carry out justice from patrol to prosecution.
Body-worn cameras (BWC) can record an incident, reducing the ambiguity of eyewitness testimony. Modern BWCs prioritize long battery life, wide fields of view, two-way communication and clear, high-resolution footage.
POV cameras supplement BWC to provide the officer's point of view. Aim for weather-resistant and durable devices that integrate with your existing body cam network.
Bulletproof vests are critical equipment to protect officers during altercations. They're made with interlaced tethered fibers to absorb the impact of a bullet, lessening the harm to the officer underneath.
Smart weapon holsters take the onus of activating a body-worn camera off of the officer. When the officer draws their weapon, the smart holster will automatically turn their BWC on to record the situation without distracting the officer from the action.
Conducted energy weapons (CEWs) such as the TASER 10 give officers better opportunities to de-escalate potentially violent situations. Audio and visual cues from the CEW can discourage violent action, and the increased range of newer models helps keep officers safe when deploying.
Drones can assist with search and rescue, crime scene reconstruction and large event security by covering a lot of ground and providing a bird's-eye view of the area.
Integrated evidence management systems make it easier to intake, organize and search through evidence from your agency's many cameras. That can make it easier to find what you need and share it with prosecutors and other stakeholders.
Portable interview kits empower officers to perform high-quality interviews in the field, saving them and persons of interest from trips to and from the station while preserving critical audio and video recordings.
Virtual reality (VR) training offers improved realism and shorter sessions that can lead to better recall and more cost-effective training.
Many of the tools in an officer’s toolkit pull double duty by making them more effective and simultaneously keeping them safe. But costs for each piece of gear can quickly add up. If you’re looking for a way to bundle these solutions and save your department budget, consider Axon’s Officer Safety Plan. At three different price points, this flexible plan makes it easy and affordable to get your officers the support they need, from CEWs to smart holsters.
Police officer equipment wouldn't be complete without a dash cam. Around 69% of police vehicles had a camera installed, and with good reason. Dash cams help keep police safe, aiding them in de-escalating situations by pointing out to citizens that they're being recorded. They enhance training by collecting material officers can use for self-critique. By the same token, they keep a record of police activity that both improves transparency and exonerates more officers facing community complaints. Finally, dash cam footage serves as vital evidence at trial.
Here are some of the most important features a dash cam should have:
ALPR: Automatic license plate recognition lets officers rapidly scan license plates and check them against databases of cars that have been stolen or are of interest.
Dual-view and interior cameras: Dual-view cameras increase the range of coverage for evidence capture and ALPR, and interior cams record footage of the inside of the police cruiser.
Real-time data sharing: Real-time location data accelerates backup deployment and other assistance from dispatch.
RMS integration: Dash cams that work with records management software make it easy to quickly upload and catalog digital evidence. That reduces officer downtime and facilitates fast cooperation with prosecutors and other departments.
Automatic activation: Camera activation tied to vehicle light bars can help officers focus on the situation at hand.
While all those features may seem like they require several different products, the Axon Fleet 3 dashboard camera provides an innovative solution for all of them.
To learn more about the essentials of law enforcement equipment, read The definitive police equipment list for modern agencies. For more useful dash cam features, read Police dash cameras: 9 features modern fleets must have.
Law enforcement tactical gear
The most dangerous situations police face include hostage negotiations, active shooter responses and more. Responding officers from SWAT and other high-pressure details need the highest-performing tactical gear they can get. A high-quality tactical outfit will include the elements of everyday police kits as outlined above while building them out with these additional tools.
A tactical vest will include pockets for carrying small items, MOLLE attachment points, and, for extreme scenarios, pouches for armor plates.
Body armor rated up to Level IIIA can protect officers from low-velocity 9mm rounds to .44 magnum rounds. SWAT and military operators often use Level III and above to fend off rifle rounds.
Head and hands
Tactical gloves protect the wearer from both the elements and sharp objects on a suspect. They should be sturdy yet pliable to preserve range of motion.
Helmets such as the Ops-Core Future Assault Shell Technology (FAST) can provide protection and attachment points for cameras, night vision gear and more.
Tactical goggles can protect the eyes from wind, dust, biohazards and more.
Belt and tools
To serve as police officer equipment, a belt must have capacity for the officer's essential gear. It should be made of durable leather or nylon.
Many jurisdictions carry firearms issued by their department, and they'll need holsters made for the particular weapon they carry. These holsters should secure weapons during strenuous activity and when assailants try to take the weapons they hold. Level III retention commonly indicates a firearm will stay in a holster even after two retention devices are disabled.
Radios should be easy to use and allow for two-way communication. They should fasten to the officer's kit via a belt clip, vest strap or other method.
For more on how to outfit tactical police, read Law enforcement tactical gear: Outfit your squad with this checklist.
K9 police officer equipment
As much as any other members of the squad, the dogs in the K9 division require specific equipment that empowers them to do their best work. These tools resemble civilian products but are often more rugged and durable. K9 equipment breaks down into three basic categories: restraint, training and protection.
Restraints help human officers keep control of their canine counterparts. Although K9 officers receive extensive training, the challenges they face in the real world can stretch the limits of that training. Typical components include:
A leash made of reinforced ballistic nylon or leather
A wide, sturdy collar with a fast-releasing latch and a handle
A harness for greater restraint and control, sometimes including MOLLE attach points
A muzzle to prevent biting
Training equipment aids in maintaining K9 skills and habits that keep them helpful and in control rather than running wild. Here’s what to look for:
A bite sleeve or bite suit human companions can wear to teach their dog how and when to bite
A training collar of stainless steel with small, rounded prongs on its inside to replicate how dogs naturally "train" one another: via small "nips" on the neck
Scent training aids in which trainers can hide a scented item and encourage the K9 officer to track using its sense of smell
K9 officers put themselves on the line in the same way human officers do. They also have particular vulnerabilities such as their more sensitive hearing. Here’s what they can use for protection:
A K9 ballistic vest rated on the National Institute of Justice's "level" scale to protect the animal from knives and small-caliber firearms
Ear muffs to protect K9 hearing from loud noises and keep them calm during loud events such as fireworks displays
For more on outfitting K9 officers, read Police K9 equipment list: What law enforcement needs to know.
Law enforcement equipment grants
With budgets tight, it can sometimes become difficult to acquire law enforcement equipment. Departments are then forced to make do with outdated or aging tech rather than invest in new solutions that keep officers safer. In some cases, they may be able to turn to funding opportunities in the public and private spheres for aid in upgrading their equipment.
The Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services allows agencies to solicit funds from a $177,800,000 pool. The program aims to help agencies develop and acquire effective equipment and tech. Agencies must be named by the Congressional Joint Explanatory Statement (JES) to be eligible for application, but they can receive millions in funding if selected.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance has a wide subject field, aiming to improve police, courts, corrections and more. The Edward Byrne Memorial JAG is its most generous assistance package, with allocations for states and localities. At the state level, total funding hit around $21,200,000 in 2023. The Bureau of Justice Statistics establishes a formula that determines which applicants receive funds and how much funding they receive.
Every state has its own programs for funding allocations. Many set aside money from their budgets to build out grant programs offering agencies support. For example, the Texas Body-Worn Camera Grant Program offers a competitive grant with a $6 million funding pool for agencies to obtain body-worn cameras, digital video storage, retrieval systems or cloud-based services. We recommend you check your state's official website for funding opportunities.
Police foundations are charitable organizations that try to help agencies bridge funding gaps using member donations. There are nearly 100 operating across the country. It may be a good idea to contact one near your agency to see how it can help.
To learn more about these and other funding opportunities for law enforcement equipment, read 5 law enforcement equipment grants funding modern departments.
How Axon can help
Outfitting your officers with best-in-class law enforcement equipment can be challenging and expensive – but it doesn’t have to be.
The Axon Officer Safety Plan can greatly simplify the process, providing agencies with a wide variety of connected technology on a single contract. The OSP plan includes three different tiers, designed to help meet your equipment needs with top-shelf Axon tech, including the TASER 10 and the Axon Body 4 camera. Additionally, agencies that take advantage of the OSP receive access to Axon’s intuitive software solutions, such as Axon Evidence for comprehensive evidence management and Axon Respond for live alerts.
Axon’s OSP even includes hardware upgrades at a predictable line item price to ensure your officers are always equipped with the latest and safest in technology. Click here for a free consultation on which package is right for your agency.