Kirkland Police uniforms have taken on a new look. In response to growing medical concerns, the Department has begun issuing officers load bearing vests in an effort to help alleviate and prevent a nationwide leading cause of officer injury which is lower back injury. The vest provides relief and helps to mitigate long term injuries by redistributing as much as three-quarters of the weight away from their lower backs and hips.
Officers typically carry up to 30 pounds of equipment on their uniform belt. This often includes a gun, radio, handcuffs, firearm, pepper spray, Taser, cell phone, baton, ammo and other equipment as needed. The load bearing vests are worn over the uniform shirt and allow officers to move much of this equipment to the vest and off of the officers lower back and hips. The load bearing vest also serves as a carrier for the officer’s protective body armor, often referred to as “bullet proof vests.”
“The Kirkland Police Department is always looking for ways to improve the work environment and protect the health of its officers,” notes Police Chief Eric Olsen. “While the issuance of load bearing vests to patrol officers is relatively new in Washington, they are quickly gaining nationwide popularity due to their health benefits.” According to Olsen, Kirkland officers who have been testing the vests have all reported significant relief from pre-existing back and hip pain.
Currently officers wear their protective body armor under their uniform shirt, which tends to trap heat, causing much discomfort during the summer months. The load bearing vests are worn over the uniform shirt and don’t trap heat, allowing for increased officer comfort.