Keith Lewis carried a six-shooter in his holster and a long wooden baton on his hip when he joined the Victoria Police Department in 1987.
He and five other recruits signed on to the downtown detachment at a time when the newest crime-fighting tool was the bulletproof vest.
No one used Tasers or pepper spray, and at times there were more officers on duty than there were radios, meaning some people walked the beat without one.
Two decades later, an officer's belt has far more tools, and some older ones have seen significant upgrades. The old .38 revolvers Lewis and his fellow officers used to carry were replaced by the .40-calibre Glock, while the latest nightsticks come in a sleek, expandable metal shaft that's easy to carry.
But the most profound improvements are in the form of new digital technology - electronic criminal databases, for example, or the regional radio network for emergency personnel shared by all 13 municipalities in Greater Victoria.
As Lewis and other officers attest, nothing has changed the way police enforce the law as much as the databases that give instant access to millions of criminal-history reports.
"I can access immediate information - all it takes is a matter of seconds," Lewis said.
The database in B.C. is PRIME, or the Police Records Information Management Environment, which began as a pilot project in three Lower Mainland communities in 2001.
Once expanded province-wide, PRIME was often seen as a cumbersome system for officers who were required to input pages of data for every police report they filed. But the work pays off when criminal histories are readily available.
"When I'm doing research on bail hearings and I have to make a decision on whether I think a person should be held or not, [criminal history] information is so valuable," Lewis said.
The same information gives officers an advantage when they respond to calls such as domestic disputes - they can find out ahead of time if there is a history of violence or weapons charges.
"In terms of safety, it's huge for us," said Const. Brett Stewart. "Access to that information allows you to make timely decisions, and when you're going into a situation, there are less unknowns."
The days of not having enough radios are also over in Victoria. Every officer is connected by a Motorola radio that transmits across the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications network.
Created in 2003, CREST was designed to provide all emergency-response personnel - firefighters, paramedics and police - with the ability to communicate in a multijurisdictional emergency.
Before CREST, each municipality's police force operated on its own radio system. Victoria's network in the 1980s had just a handful of police units covering the entire city.
"You couldn't help but know where everybody was because you heard it," Lewis said. "But now with the volume of work and the number of calls, that's just not possible. It's just non-stop talk on the radios." email@example.com
Shirt: The colour of the navy-blue duty shirt is referred to in the industry as LAPD blue. This polyester-wool shirt is part of the Flying Cross line by Fechheimer.
Notebook: Every page is lined for easy note-taking and numbered for organizing information in police reports. Depending on preference, an officer can use the flip-top memo pad or the traditional sidebound notebook. Both are wrapped in a canvas case.
Ammunition: Officers have plenty of firepower on their belts with two clips of .40-calibre hollow-point rounds. Each clip comes with 15 rounds.
Handcuffs: Every officer uses Safariland handcuffs. The lightweight steel aluminum bracelets, which few people want to wear, are designed with 18 teeth chiselled on three retaining bars, making them difficult to pick.
Boots: Every officer buys his or her own boots. Const. Brett Stewart has opted for the original SWAT boot, but footwear varies greatly among officers.
Pen: Pens are not standard issue, but they are supplied by the department. Stewart has a PaperMate black pen for taking detailed notes during investigations.
Handcuff key: This 11-cm pin is easier to handle than the traditional small keys, which can be difficult to keep track of or fish out of a pocket. This preferred model comes with a pen clip that allows it to be stored on the chest pocket for easy access.
Taser: Dubbed by its manufacturer as the Workhorse, the Taser X26 has become a common tool for patrol officers, despite controversy associated with its use.
Watch: This item is not standard-issue, but most officers buy their own watches to help identify and record specific times during investigations. This Casio G-Shock is circa 1990.
Pepper spray: Standard-issue Sabre Red pepper spray is a staple on every officer's belt. Suppliers brag they have been "making grown men cry since 1975" with a product affectionately known in some police circles as "manners in a can."
Radio: The XTS 3000 Motorola radio with Commander II boom mike connects officers and their dispatchers through the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications radio system.
Flashlight: The department has several flashlight models in use, but the standard-issue one right now is the P5R rechargeable LED flashlight. At 11 cm in length, this is a handy tool for any dark corner.
Baton: The ASP expandable baton is the latest version in a long history of police night-stick evolution. Stretching from 17 cm (collapsed) to 53 cm (extended), it's easy to store and packs quite the wallop.
Firearm: Every officer carries his or her .40-calibre Glock model 22 handgun. The deadliest weapon in an officer's belt is used infrequently and only when absolutely necessary.
Latex gloves: Officers carry latex gloves for searches that could pose health and safety risks. Every officer has department-issued leather frisk gloves with a liner that protects against cuts and punctures from sharp objects, but the latex glove can provide more of a tactile feel when necessary.
Pants: The PDU B-Class twill pants - also in the beloved LAPD blue - come with handy side pockets for storing gloves or notebooks. The durable line is part of the 5.11 tactical series.
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