Can You Identify This Police Equipment?

Alex Wittman

Image: kali9/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

From handcuffs and radios to firearms and batons, police use a variety of equipment to protect and serve. Do you think you can identify all their equipment?  We'll see about that! Even if you've watched every single episode of "Cops," the tools police use are as diverse as the cases they work. We think even career law enforcement officials may have to think to recall the names and purposes of their - sometimes futuristic-looking - equipment. Dashcams, bulletproof vests and riot shields: It's no wonder there are so many police dramas on TV with all this equipment to feature!

For police officers, every day on the job is different. When they put on their uniform, they have no idea what challenges they may face. In order to be ready for anything, police have a wide array of equipment at their disposal. Hours of training and on-the-job experience means they know how to use the police equipment to handle any situation. From dealing with intoxicated drivers to securing the scene of an accident, police equipment helps law enforcement officials do their job efficiently and effectively. 

Can you recognize this police equipment? Take this quiz to see if you know the difference between a dashcam and a bodycam. Along the way, you'll learn fascinating facts guaranteed to help you rock any future police equipment trivia questions! 

What is the name of this piece of equipment which police use to determine how much alcohol a driver has consumed?

Police use Breathalyzers to determine a person's blood alcohol content (BAC). Breathalyzer is actually a trademarked name, but it is commonly used to refer to any device that measures BAC from a breath sample. Since Breathalyzers only provide an estimation of a person's BAC, police often request blood analysis to be used in court.

What is the name of the mechanism police use to lock a vehicle in place?

In the United States, a wheel clamp or parking boot is often referred to as a "Denver boot." Police use this device to prevent illegally parked motor vehicles from moving.

What is this police officer wearing to make himself easily identifiable?

Without a doubt a highly important piece of equipment, the police uniform is easily recognizable and allows officers to establish a visual presence before even saying a word. Across the country and around the world, police uniforms vary greatly. Navy blue became a popular color choice due to the fact it's easy to clean and doesn't show stains like a lighter color might.

What is the name of this important item that police carry at all times?

Since the Middle Ages, people have worn badges as symbols of their place in society. Today, police officers wear badges as a visual representation of their legal authority. Upon graduating from the police academy, new officers receive their badge. In many jurisdictions, even police dogs wear badges.

What is this piece of equipment which police wear to protect themselves in the event of gunfire?

On a day-to-day basis, police most often wear soft bulletproof vests underneath their uniforms. Police tactical units opt for ballistic vests which have a metal or ceramic plate inserted into the soft vest for additional protection. The tightly woven layers of fiber making up the vest slow down, deform and spread out the force of a bullet.

What two-wheeled police vehicle is shown here?

In 1908, the Detroit Police Department became the first to utilize motorcycles. The popularity of motorcycles for law enforcement and military purposes grew during WWI when Harley-Davidson sent nearly 20,000 motorcycles overseas to help the war effort. Then and today, motorcycles allow for increased responsiveness and maneuverability. Motor patrol officers are able to more easily investigate traffic-related incidents in comparison to four-wheeled police vehicles.

What is the name of this police equipment often used during evidence collection?

In a pouch on their duty belt, police generally carry at least one pair of disposable gloves. From administering first aid to documenting a crime scene, disposable gloves have a multitude of uses.

What handy gadget that police can use for a variety of tasks is shown here?

Multi-tools may not be standard issue equipment, but many police officers elect to carry one on their duty belt. Useful for a variety of scenarios, a multi-tool's features can include pliers, wire cutters, a saw, spring-action scissors, a metal file and screwdriver to name a few.

What potentially life-saving device is shown here?

Because sudden cardiac arrest claims so many lives every year, police have begun carrying automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in their squad cars. A person's chance of survival dramatically decreases with each minute they do not receive defibrillation following cardiac arrest. That's why it's vital first responders have AEDs to perform this potentially life -saving procedure.

What extremely practical yet often overlooked piece of police equipment is shown here?

Yet another important item found on a police officer's duty belt is a key holder. To keep multiple keys from making too much noise, police often utilize a silent key holder which goes around the keys and snaps shut to keep them in place.

What is the name of the device police use to communicate with one another and dispatch?

The handheld transceiver, or two-way radios, has long been a fixture in police duty. In fact, American police departments have been using handheld transceivers since the 1930s. Unlike a broadcast receiver which only receives content, a two-way radio is able to both send and receive communication.

What is the name of the police equipment shown here holding an officer's handgun?

Perhaps one of the most important items on a police officer's duty belt, a handgun holster allows the officer to store and carry a firearm safely while still permitting easy access in the event it is needed. Many police-issue handgun holsters have a strap over the top of the holster to prevent the weapon from falling out and keep any unwanted person from grabbing it.

What is the name of this traditional form of transportation for police?

Although primarily used for ceremonial purposes today, horses have a long history in law enforcement and continue to be utilized in modern times. Mounted police often oversee crowded events since from their high vantage point they have greater visibility. One of the most famous mounted police units is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or "Mounties."

What is the name of this piece of equipment that helps police see in the dark?

Even police who primarily work during daylight hours carry a flashlight on their duty belt. Some police elect to carry larger flashlights, which can double as a weapon if needed. Other officers prefer smaller flashlights, some of which can be mounted on their handguns.

What piece of equipment is this officer using to subdue the suspect?

Perhaps the most iconic police equipment, officers frequently utilize handcuffs. In fact, many police officers carry several pairs of handcuffs in case they need to subdue multiple suspects before backup arrives. Typically made of steel, the locks on handcuffs are nearly impossible to pick.

What is the name of the weapon shown here, which is frequently associated with police?

Many police departments issue Glock pistols as part of their standard duty police equipment. A semi-automatic pistol, police have used Glock handguns since the early 1980s. The brand is known for its reliability, accuracy and minimal weight.

What is the name of this piece of equipment which makes a police car easily identifiable?

In addition to a siren, police cars are equipped with flashing lights. Police use their emergency lighting to warn people of hazards, indicate they want a driver to pull over and communicate the urgency of their journey. In the United States, blue emergency lights are reserved for law enforcement.

What piece of police equipment, shown here, holds an officer's extra rounds?

In addition to a loaded firearm, police officers carry extra magazines - filled with bullets - on their duty belt. This pouch makes them easily accessible in the event the officer needs to reload.

What is the name of the device that allows police to measure a vehicle's speed?

A radar, or speed, gun measures how fast an object is moving. In order to enforce speed limits, police use radar guns to track the speed of moving vehicles. Police utilize handheld radar guns while stationary as well as moving radar which allows them to measure speed while they themselves are in motion.

What piece of equipment is shown here affixed to the squad car to help the officer see in the dark?

There can be a lot of variety among police vehicles, even in a single department, but one feature they all have in common is a spotlight. Spotlights allow police to see inside vehicles they've pulled over at night. Newer spotlights can even penetrate dark window tint on car windows.

What is the name of this device which records events and interactions from inside the squad car?

Police departments install dashcams, or dashboard cameras, inside their vehicles to record traffic stops and car chases. The footage can be valuable evidence in court. Some dashcams do not activate until the police vehicle's emergency lights or sirens turn on.

What is this piece of police equipment that officer's wear around their waist to allow for quick access to all their tools?

Since it's vital for officers to have their hands free to perform their jobs, the majority of a police officer's most important tools are stored on the duty belt. Typically made from either nylon or leather, duty belts store and display police equipment such as the firearm, handcuffs, flashlight and radio. A fully-loaded duty belt can weigh 20 lbs.

What is the name of this device which police use to slow down/stop a vehicle?

Officially known as a tire deflation device, a spike strip is used to slow down or stop a moving vehicle by puncturing its tires. The strip is made of upward pointing metal barbs that can be as long as 3 inches. Because they can be dangerous to set up, remotely deployable spike strips have been invented.

What is the name of this device which records traffic at an intersection?

Often installed in collision-prone intersections, red light cameras photograph vehicles that enter an intersection after the traffic light has turned red. To record the infraction for later prosecution, the camera takes a picture of the vehicle's rear license plate. Before the driver is issued a ticket, a police officer reviews the footage to ensure a traffic violation actually occurred.

What is the name of this non-lethal piece of police equipment?

Intended as a non-lethal alternative, police most commonly use rubber bullets for riot control. They can be fired from standard firearms as well as riot-specific guns. Rubbers bullet may be considered "non-lethal," but they still cause bodily injury ranging from bruises and abrasions to bone fractures and internal bleeding. In a few cases, being struck with a rubber bullet has resulted in death.

What is this piece of equipment which police use to open locked doors?

In their early days, it took a team of strong men to operate a battering ram. Today, modern battering rams require just one or two people due to technical enhancements that magnify momentum. Police utilize battering rams when speed of entry, such as in hostage situations or stealth operations, is more important than preventing property damage.

What type of police vehicle is shown here?

Many police departments have unmarked cars as part of their official police vehicle fleet. Frequently, police utilize unmarked cars for traffic enforcement. Often, police detectives opt for unmarked cars versus the well-known and easily identifiable squad car.

What is the name of this brightly-colored item which police use to close off a scene?

Police often use barricade tape to preserve a crime scene. The brightly colored tape lets the public know the area it encloses is off limits. Sturdier than in looks, barricade tape is made with tear-proof plastic materials.

What is this piece of equipment which officers use to protect themselves from hostile crowds?

As their name suggests, riot shields are generally used in riots situations when police are trying to disperse an unruly crowd. A typical riot shield is tall enough to cover an average-sized person from head to knees. In addition to protection from thrown objects and non-ballistic weapons, riot shield can be used to physically push back rioters.

What is the name of this device which police use to keep tabs on a person?

Also known as a tether, defendants placed under house arrest are often required to wear ankle monitors. The ankle monitor is programmed to notify police if the wearer moves outside a designated range. Some defendants have attempted to remove their ankle monitors, but the devices are extremely durable and resistant to tampering. Police are alerted if the wearer tries to cut the band or slip off the device.

What is the name of the substance shown being released here?

Like rubber bullets, tear gas is considered a non-lethal weapon and is most frequently utilized for riot control. Tear gas attacks the nerve of the lacrimal gland, forcing it to produce tears. While international treaties prohibit the use of chemical weapons such as tear gas in warfare, international law does not bind police from using it.

What is this piece of equipment which police often use when transporting a prisoner?

Prisoners wear this physical restraint which consists of a chain around the waist that is connected to handcuffs. To prevent the prisoner from running, law enforcement officials sometimes use a longer chain to connect ankle restraints.

What is the name of the non-lethal device shown here?

A more recent addition to police equipment, tasers are becoming more popular due to their ability to subdue a person without causing lasting physical harm. Police tasers can travel approximately 15-25 feet. Taser probes are able to penetrate most articles of clothing and emit an initial charge of up to 50,000 volts. However, by the time the electric shock reaches the intended person, it has usually diminished to around 1,800 volts.

What is this piece of equipment which police carry on their duty belts and can often extend?

One of the oldest pieces of police equipment, police batons are widely used around the world. Weighing several pounds and extending up to 26 inches in length, batons are essential for crowd control, self-defense and breaking windows.

What type of police vehicle is shown here?

A police van is used to transport more suspects, prisoners or officers than a typical squad car can hold. The word van is short for caravan, our a group of travellers journeying together.

What is the name of the substance shown here?

Contrary to what you might think, pepper spray and tear gas are not the same. Pepper spray is made from the active compound in peppers: capsicin. While tear gas may contain a variant of capsicin, it is often a blend of several chemicals. Pepper spray is stored and discharged from an aerosol can while tear gas is often dispersed from a grenade.

What is this piece of police equipment which is modeled after traditional handcuffs?

Similar to traditional handcuffs, PlastiCuffs, or plastic handcuffs, are a physical restraint. Due to their primary material, PlastiCuffs are cheap and easy to manufacture. Police use plastic handcuffs in situations where many arrests are made in a short amount of time. Unlike traditional handcuffs, PlastiCuffs are much more vulnerable to breakage and unlawful removal.

What type of police vehicle is shown here?

Squad cars are decked out with features to help police perform their duties safely and to the best of their ability. In addition to rooftop flashing lights and a siren, squad cars also have reinforced bumpers and floodlights. Vehicle manufacturers, like General Motors, Ford and Dodge, produce police-specific vehicles that offer higher durability and increased speed capabilities.

What is the name of this device which police use to locate heat sources?

As departments move toward the future of policing, some have elected to invest in thermal imaging cameras. Their primary function is to identify heat sources and do so by converting infrared radiation to visible light. From locating fleeing suspects to finding the source of a fire, thermal imaging cameras have a variety of uses.

What is the name of the device shown on the front of this police officer's uniform?

Police often wear body cameras to more easily gather evidence at a crime scene as well as record their interactions with civilians. Like dashcams, some body cameras begin recording when an officer initiates a certain procedure. While body cameras vary greatly depending on the manufacturer and police department, some features include infrared, night vision and HD quality. Weighing anywhere from 2 ounces to 5 ounces, body cameras are lightweight so as not to restrict the officer in any way.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes