Tools of the Trade: Duty Belt

Tools of the Trade: Duty Belt

Duty belt: leather duty belt, bullet magazine carrying cases, taser case, handcuff case, expandable baton and case, gun holster, pepper spray case, ca. late 20th to early 21st century. 2011.27.1-.7. Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, DC . 

The Museum’s newest educational activity, “Tools of the Trade: Duty Belt,” invites participants to ponder what law enforcement officers carry on one of the most important, practical and visible aspects of their uniforms. Unlike belts worn by the average person, law enforcement duty belts do much more than simply hold up a person’s pants.  In fact, they are the law enforcement equivalent of a tradesman’s tool box, an office worker’s desk drawer, or a doctor’s medical bag. 

In this activity, participants can think about not only what officers might need to have easy access to while on duty, but also why certain things are kept on the belt, where they are placed for easy access, and how heavy all that equipment really is!

Older children and adults can examine an actual duty belt so they can see the holsters (minus the equipment, of course), feel its weight (and imagine what it might feel like at full capacity), and discuss the important questions outlined above.

Younger children can create their own paper duty belts by gluing cutouts of various types of equipment to a picture of a belt and personalizing it with markers.

Though in practice this activity has proved to be engaging, interactive, and enjoyable for all ages, it could be even better with some help from the experts: law enforcement professionals. If you or someone you know is a law enforcement officer who has a recent issue belt you would be willing to donate for use with this activity, please let us know. 

Some other questions for law enforcement officers:

  • What are or aren’t you allowed to carry in your jurisdiction?
  • What types of training do you need in order to carry whatever equipment has been issued?
  • What do you think are the indispensable pieces of equipment you carry, and why?
  • Where do you arrange those pieces of equipment on your own belt, and why?
  • And if you’ve been in law enforcement for awhile, what changes have you seen in what gets carried, how much it weighs, or the policies surrounding what’s approved to be carried?
  • How much of the equipment is yours and how much is supplied by your department?
  • What do you wish the public understood about wearing a duty belt and its role in how you do your job?

Please contact Becky Fulcher, Education Programs Specialist, with any questions about the “Tools of the Trade: Duty Belt” activity, donation offers, or answers to the above questions at or (202) 737-7981.


901 E Street, NW, Suite 100 | Washington, DC 20004-2025 | phone 202.737.3400 | fax 202.737.3405 |