Some might say that Law Enforcement Officers are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. But if you ask them, they’ll tell you that they’re carrying the weight of the world on their duty belt. Tools, technology and the demands of the job continue to evolve, and officers are carrying more equipment than ever. An average duty belt includes:
- Spare Magazines
- Spare EDW Cartridges
- Flashlight (often a backup light as well)
- Handcuffs (often two pairs)
- Pepper Spray
Gravity’s a Drag
Of course, some officers carry even more equipment than this. The weight adds up fast, up to 30 pounds, depending on the equipment carried. Since officers must have constant access to their equipment, there’s no escaping that weight strapped to their waists. When standing, it’s bearing down on their hips. When sitting in the patrol car, essentially their office chair, that equipment is pressing into their back. There’s also increased risk of injury should an officer fall and land on a piece of belt-worn equipment.
A Heavy Cost
All of this is bad news for officer performance, officer comfort, officer safety and public safety in general. Poorly distributed weight can cause chronic pain in the hips, knees and back. In the worst case scenario, these conditions can lead to early retirement, not to mention medical costs incurred by departments. It’s a lose/lose equation. Careers are cut short and the public loses their most experienced protectors.
Sharing the Load
Thankfully, there’s a solution: The Load Bearing Vest. Load bearing vests take the weight off the hips and distributes it more evenly across the shoulders. The military has known for years that a load bearing vest is an efficient way to carry gear without compromising individual performance. SWAT teams and tactical responders have long-since adapted military gear for law enforcement applications, but now a new generation of external carriers and load bearing vests are becoming available for all of Law Enforcement. These new carriers combine the comfort and convenience of a tactical vest with the professional appearance of a traditional uniform. While not yet commonplace, external armor carriers are being fielded by more agencies every day. A load bearing carrier is the next logical step, and some of these hybrids are already available.
It’s a win/win. Officers can enjoy a full career with fewer health problems. The public reaps the benefits of experienced officers patrolling the streets. Budget crunchers will enjoy the added bonus of reduced medical costs from preventable injuries.