By Jean Reynolds

Standard police equipment usually includes yellow crime scene tape, a service weapon, a statute book, a first-aid kit, and a laptop. But experienced officers say that a number of everyday items can also be useful in police work. Here are some suggestions.

Writing materials:

Of course you have writing materials—a laptop, notebook, or both—in your vehicle. But what if you have to leave your vehicle suddenly to deal with an emergency: will you be able to take notes? Many officers keep a pen and dime-store notebook in a pocket for unexpected situations.

Staying clean and dry:

If you live in an area where the weather is unpredictable, you might want to keep a towel in your car. And if your region has a long rainy season—or you frequently encounter contaminants in your work—consider storing a change of clothing in your vehicle.

Pocket-size tools:

Experienced officers say a pocket knife with a sharp blade can be invaluable. Some recommend carrying a Swiss knife with various attachments. Other useful items might include safety pins, paper clips, measuring tape, and extra flashlight bulbs and batteries.

First aid equipment:

Consider carrying remedies for minor problems like cuts, scratches, stomach upsets, and headaches. Useful items include adhesive bandages in various sizes, and some over-the-counter medications: antiseptic ointment, pain killers, and antacids.

Experts note that many officers are unaware that they already carry with them a powerful piece of equipment that’s can be useful in police work: their phones.

You already know that your phone can take photos and record video footage. But have you familiarized yourself with online language translators? They can be lifesaving if your work brings you into contact with people who are beginning to learn English.

Spend some time learning how to use the camera, Google Maps, and memory storage features on your phone. Very likely you already have instant phone access with resources like the hospital, poison control, and animal control. But do you have the phone number for the local library handy? Answering questions is part of the job description for reference librarians. A quick phone call to the library might be a timesaver when you need an elusive fact for an emergency or g a complicated investigation. There might also be situations when you need help spelling an unfamiliar word for a report.

Consider also the information stored in your brain. Do you know how to spell important streets, towns, and other place names in your service area? Can you correctly identify north, south, east, or west if you need to pinpoint a location in a report? Do you know the length of your stride?

Experienced officers say that an everyday item or small piece of information can be a big help in a difficult situation. Take some time to consider whether you would benefit by adding a few items to your vehicle, your phone, or the memory bank inside your head.