Officers at one North Texas police department are starting to sport a new look. It’s not for style, but for longevity.
Some Lake Dallas police officers are now wearing load-bearing bulletproof vests as part of their uniform. They replace traditional duty belts, which officers wear around the waist. Officers say carrying up to thirty pounds of gear on those belts takes a toll, especially on the back.
“It’s totally wrecked,” said Lake Dallas police chief Daniel Corolla, who previously spent 18 years in the Dallas Police Department. “I have the same issues my officers have."
Those issues include disc and muscle problems, which can result in missed work time for treatment, disability and even early retirement.
“It's just years and years of repetitive wear,” said Corolla. “Having weight in places that our body isn't designed to have weight."
Lake Dallas police began testing the load-bearing vests in November of 2017. Several officers now wear them. They feature compartments which store gear which used to go on those duty belts. The weight of that gear is better distributed, said Corolla, lessening the strain on the back.
“I think in the next few years you'll see every department going to this,” said Lt. Syd Grant, who likens the vests to wearing a backpack.
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Officer Connor Farrell said the vests have made a difference. While working for another police department, he suffered arm, back and neck injuries in an on-the-job car wreck.
“The feeling was instantaneous,” said Farrell. “The relief on my hips and back, it was night and day. It's amazing."
Officers said the new vests improve mobility and safety. Corolla said several departments have reached out to him to ask how effective the vests are. Austin Police recently announced they will begin testing them.
“If it extends the career of your officers,” he said. “There's absolutely no downside to it."