Residents of Tyrone will soon notice that some of our officers are sporting a new look.
Effective immediately, I am giving our officers the option to wear load bearing vest carriers in an effort to reduce the impact that wearing a heavy duty belt has on the lower back (more on that below).
There has been much discussion in the news and on social media over the past few years about the "militarization" of law enforcement and police officers taking on a more "tactical" appearance. The growing use of the load bearing vest by police departments across the United States (very widespread in the UK and other parts of Europe) is central to that discussion.
Here's an example of a load bearing vest:
This look is a definite change from what many citizens are used to seeing and it IS reminiscent of something a SWAT officer might wear, but they are definitely not "tactical".
Despite their look, load bearing vests are designed for comfort above all as they take a significant amount of weight and pressure off the lower back and hips.
All that gear we have to carry on our belts gets extremely heavy (roughly 15 to 20 lbs, depending on what the officer is carrying). Over time, this results in major discomfort and has even led to surgery for some officers. Many documented cases of this exist across the U.S..
The following short video provides a good comparison of the effects of a duty belt to those of a load bearing vest on the lower spine.
Raise your hand if you want to wear something for 12 hours a day for years on end that will cause your lower spine to extend 12 degrees or more farther than the maximum recommended by doctors.
I don't blame you.
We won't be wearing more equipment with these vests; we'll simply be displacing most of the weight of the same gear we carry everyday to the shoulders and upper back resulting in a greater level of comfort and long-term well-being.
The carriers (the officer's soft body armor is concealed inside the vest) cost approximately $200 and will be purchased with seized drug funds. The equipment pouches that attach to the vests will be purchased by the officers from their uniform allowance or out of pocket.
They'll be hitting the streets in a few weeks.