The pack itself is just a typical internal frame backpack. When we go out in the field, we wear blue pants, a warm shirt, and boots, plus the backpack. That's about it. It doesn't take me long to get ready, because the stuff in my garage is pretty well organized. Usually, from the time I get home to when I'm packed, changed, and ready to go, about half an hour goes by. Most times, it has to be quick. I don't unpack after a job, because usually when I come home from a search I'm pretty beat. It's not uncommon to get a call at 10 o'clock at night. Then we'll go out, search all night, and get home first thing in the morning. You just crash out.
My favorite piece of gear, I think, is my ice axe. We were on quite a few rescues in the San Bernardinos this year; it came in handy. But all of my equipment is easy to use and lightweight. Because when you're on an operation, you're always concerned with volume and weight. Whether you're on a technical rescue or you're out in the field, you always want the smallest and lightest. And San Diego has a lot of brush, so we often find ourselves brush-crawling. We call it "manzanita stomping." So if you have a big old pack that weighs a lot, you'll feel like you're dying. I'd say my average pack weight is 30 to 35 pounds, depending on the rescue. (Unless you're doing winter rescue, in which case the pack weighs quite a bit more, because you have to have a stove, a shelter, and warmer clothes on top of all the other stuff. The winter pack is closer to 50 or 60 pounds.)
I've had a lot of my equipment for a while, so it's kind of older and heavier, but it's still in pretty good shape. There's always something lighter and smaller. Some new titanium gadget, something ultralight that's just been invented. But I have to wait until something breaks before I buy the nifty new version. One of the things that you specifically think about when you pack your pack is that you don't want anything that you're not going to use. Typically if I have something that I haven't used in a couple of years, then I'll either sell it or give it away.
It's about efficiency. Having what you need but not having too much.
- Dan Hollister
- Police Sergeant
I've been on the San Diego police force for over 20 years. Thirteen on a SWAT team, and the last 7 on a motorcycle squad. I follow a definite routine when I get ready for work; everything goes on in a specific order, especially during the winter months when you're putting on additional layers of clothing. The motorpants go on first. If it's cold enough, I'll put long underpants on before the motorbritches. Then comes a T-shirt and bulletproof vest. Cold mornings I might put on a turtleneck on top of that. Then comes the uniform shirt, then the leather jacket and the police belt.
I don't have any superstitions when it comes to getting ready. As long as everything goes on, fits correctly, and feels good, then it's good to go. I mean, you double check everything; you don't want to walk out of your house without your gun, but if everything is where it's supposed to be, then that's enough for me.
Motorcycle officers don't forget things as often as patrol officers, because motorcycle officers get ready at home and then ride into work. Patrol officers come to work in their civilian vehicles and then get ready in the locker room. Me, I have a walk-in closet in the master bedroom where I store everything so that it's out of reach of my kids.
Everything I carry to work with me is special; it all has a purpose. But if I had to pick a favorite tool, it would have to be my firearm. That's the bread and butter. The motorcycle isn't a luxury; it's something I need to do my job. But I think if you ask any law-enforcement officer to pick one tool, then the firearm is the one that makes all the difference in the world.
I've used my gun, but I've never had to fire it. I'm lucky. I've used the gun to gain compliance in various situations. Knock on wood, the bulletproof vest is the one thing that I've never had to use. Yet.
I've been hooking on and off since 1989, and every night when I go to work, I make sure I have protection: I carry a pair of scissors, a screwdriver, and a water gun filled with bleach and rubbing alcohol.
I used the water gun once; squirted a guy in the eyes. That's the only protection I carry. But in my purse I have cosmetics, a pen and paper to write with, condoms, my cell phone... That there's my wine. Gets me in the mood, sometimes. It's Cisco!
I wear different outfits depending on the weather, but I don't dress too obvious. I want to draw some attention to myself, but not too much, so I dress conservative. I'll be walking and I'll get that eye contact with that person, you know, it's something. We'll have a kind of way of knowing what's going on. Sometimes it takes me a while to get out of the house when I go to work at night, and sometimes I can get ready real quick. Like 15 minutes. It depends on my mood.
On the weekends, or when it's paydays for people, I'll start work at, like, 10 at night, and it'll be daylight when I finish. I usually stay in a hotel, but the last few days I've been living with someone in an apartment. And when I get home from working, I just throw my stuff down next to the bed. Or wherever. It don't matter.