The use of load-bearing vests is migrating from troops to cops as more law enforcement agencies look to curb how much weight an officer or sheriff has to carry around his or her waist.
Over the past decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers and Marines adopted different types of load-bearing equipment and backpacks, from the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, or MOLLE (pronounced “Molly”), to the Improved Load Bearing Equipment, or ILBE, to reduce the risk of developing musculoskeletal injuries.
Now, officers at police departments from Chicago to New York are donning external vest carriers that can hold equipment traditionally worn on the belt. Manufacturers are responding in kind, with a slew of products available from such companies as JG Uniforms, Safariland, Atlantic Tactical, 5.11 and Blauer.
“I got one and love it,” one police officer told Military.com. “We can put things on the vest where we want but they don’t look too ‘tactical’ and military. It takes a ton of stuff off your belt. All I carry on my belt now is my radio, keys, gun and a small glove pouch in the back. The vest comes off super easy if I have to make an arrest and need to do administrative stuff or if I have to go in the water for a rescue.”
Not all of his colleagues have been quick to embrace the new technology, however.
“Some of the more traditional guys made fun at first,” the officer said. “But in the last year, more guys are buying them and loving them. It takes time with cops. We are natural skeptics. The best thing I got out of the whole process was having cops with 20 years of experience who never wore vests wear them now and tell me they never would have worn them if not for the external carrier.”
And it’s not just big-city departments getting in on the trend.
For example, police officers in Milton, a town in northern Vermont, last year shelled out their own money to buy external vest carriers, according to an article by Courtney Lamdin, a reporter for the Milton Independent newspaper.
“I didn’t want to end up with a wrecked back, basically,” K9 Officer Jason Porter told the newspaper. “For $250, to have something that might not cause me injury and will work out better just seems to be worth the price.”