Whether they know it or not, every Burbank Police officer carries the
legacy of Sir Samuel James Browne with them whenever they’re in
Browne, a turn-of-the- century British general, is the man
credited with inventing the leather belts police officers wear to
carry essentials such as guns and handcuffs.
Sam Browne is police jargon for belts worn by male officers, while
Sally Browne is the name given the belts of female officers, Burbank
Police Sgt. William Berry said.
“Sam Brownes are basically our tool belt,” Berry said. “They carry
everything we need to do the job except common sense -- we need to
provide that on our own.”
Mandatory items carried on a belt include a standard-issue Glock
handgun, two magazines of bullets, a collapsible steel baton, a
radio, two pairs of handcuffs and pepper spray. Cases are attached to
the belt to carry items. In addition to mandatory items, officers may
carry keys, knifes and cell phones on their belts.
Fully loaded, the standard-issue belts, which can weigh between 10
and 15 pounds, are made of leather and are fastened with a clip
instead of a buckle for easy access, Community Resources Officer Vee
Special Response Team officers and other special-unit officers
wear lighter nylon versions to increase mobility, Jones said.
The belts retail for about $50, and all police recruits are
required to purchase their own, she said.
Most officers consider the belts a minor nuisance that’s necessary
to perform their jobs. Jones said occasionally, officers require
treatment for back injuries.
“It’s heavy, it rubs against your hip bone and can be irritating
and can cause back problems,” she said. “But [officers] don’t think
about it and just get the job done.”
Berry believes one reason that belts have doubled in weight during
his 30 years with the department is because officers only carried
guns, bullets and handcuffs when he joined.
Regardless, Berry said he has had the same belt since joining the
department because of its durability.
“My Sam Browne is older than a lot of cops working here,” he said.