The Lewiston Police Department is looking into what some ergonomic researchers are calling a "safe and healthier alternative" to the traditional duty belt for their officers.
All officers will continue to wear a duty belt for holstering their firearms, but one officer was selected to wear a load-bearing vest to house all other equipment. This includes tasers, cuffs, ammunition, O.C. spray, collapsible batons, and a small tourniquet/first aid supplies.
“The health and well-being of our officers is so important,” Lewiston Police Chief Budd Hurd said, noting that lower-back pain is a significant health issue for law enforcement everywhere. “That’s why we are looking at this option for our team."
Each vest costs roughly $250 and the department is looking at funding options if they choose to offer this to all employees.
“I’ve been an officer for nine years and I was chosen to try out the vest because I started to experience that pain in my lower back,” Officer J. Stormes said. “I’ve been wearing this vest for about a month now and I can already notice a big difference.”
The Eau Claire Police Department, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, and Mayo Clinic conducted a collaborative research project on the health benefits of load-bearing vest carriers in comparison to the traditional police duty belt. After the six-month study, their findings concluded that officers who wore a load-bearing vest reported less pain in comparison to those who wore the traditional duty belt.
While they also discovered that a vest weighs more than a belt, the weight is evenly distributed through use of the vest so there is less strain on the hips and lower back.
“We have been paying attention to findings like this and decided it was time to make a change,” Chief Hurd said. “This project is a part of our strategic plan, which includes implementing a strong health and wellness program.”