You may still be chipping and shoveling your way out of winter when this reaches you, but believe it or not, spring is coming. You may not do a traditional “spring cleaning” — we don’t expect you to toss out your teetering towers of empty pizza boxes — but some mental spring cleaning and preparation might make 2014 a lot more pleasant for you. And, you might be getting a tax refund check, right? Before blowing it on a new Xbox, think about this.
First, sit down with a pen and paper and think about everything that failed you, wore out or caused you needless misery during the past winter, and make a list of necessary upgrades and changes. You know if you don’t make it now, all those details will melt away in summer sunlight, and come winter, you’ll be too damn busy — and repeat the same problems.
Your insulated duty boots or shoes couldn’t cut the cold or they’re falling apart? Your warm socks have worn thin in the heels? How many times did you shiver and wish for merino wool or silk underwear, but the price tags gave you sticker-shock? Late winter and early spring brings deep-discount sales on that kind of gear, as retailers and distributors are dumping winter stock.
Did you suffer from wooden fingers, and how much time did you spend on your ass on the ice? It’s a great time to check out new cold-weather gloves too, and lay in a stock of squeeze-to-activate chemical heat packs to put in your jacket pockets on duty. I’ve found it’s a good idea to activate two of them before shoving off, and put them in my pockets. They take a while to come up to full heat, and you don’t want to lose use of your digits while waiting. Another tip: Get a pair of thin “flight gloves” you can wear inside heavier gloves without losing much flexibility. Then if you have to whip those outer gloves off in an emergency, you still have a barrier between your skin and freezing objects.
This winter even the southern states have experienced sheet ice on streets, highways and sidewalks. I highly recommend Diamond Grip ICEtrekkers in your cruiser gear. Practice getting them on and off quickly and smoothly when you don’t need them. If your duty jacket has synthetic insulation fill that has crushed and degraded, the jacket probably doesn’t look too spiffy either. Spring is a good time to sell it to some rookie who wants to look like a salty veteran. Someday he’ll learn a real veteran cop prizes warmth over salty looks.
Plan for Summer Too
Don’t wait until it’s 98 degrees with 98 percent humidity to prepare for summer, either. What made last summer miserable for you? Stock up now on SPF sunscreen lotions; lesser factors like SPF-15 for normal sun conditions and some backup SPF-50 for ears, nose and the back of your neck when you have to suffer long exposure to direct sunlight. And remember, the SPF-factor is not linear; SPF-30 isn’t twice as effective as SPF-15. Also remember SPF factor is less important than usage. You’ve got to keep freshening it for maximum effectiveness. While you’re at it, stockpile baby powder, foot powder, anti-itch balm and anything else you can think of that’ll make you a cooler, more comfortable cop.
Will you be sleeping during the day? This could be the summer you finally invest in good blackout curtains for the bedroom, and maybe pop for a small window air-conditioner both to let you sleep cool and drown out some irritating background noise. The better you sleep, the more alert you’ll be on graveyard shift. Don’t think of it as luxury, but as “collateral life insurance.”
Most phone systems now, both wireless and landline, offer the ability to block all calls except from selected numbers — like your spouse, who hopefully won’t be bugging you unnecessarily, and your agency, for call-backs. That way you’re still available for emergencies, but more likely to get uninterrupted sleep.
There are lots of good base garment shirts now made to provide maximum ventilation under your soft armor. Make sure you have enough for at least a week of duty plus two — keep one spare in your cruiser gear if you need to make a change during a shift. Sometimes just changing your undershirt and socks midway through a shift can provide really significant relief.
While You’re At It…
When was the last time your duty firearms got an armorer-level deep-cleaning and mechanical inspection? You don’t want to find out what a sluggish firing pin “light strike” is like in an alley at 0300. When was your duty and off-duty ammo last rotated? Set aside some time to go over every stitch and snap on your duty gear while you’re on days off and correct, repair or replace any problem items. Is it time to go to a newer, lighter duty belt rig, or just re-arrange the positions of your gear?
Finally, it’s a good time to update your medical records — especially the on-body medical info you should keep in your wallet or on a chain around your neck. Think about anything you’d want a doc in an ER to know if you’re brought in unconscious.
That’s not everything, but a good start. Be rested, smooth and SAFE.
By John Morrison