Optional uniform change for police officers aims to reduce injury


The many duties of law enforcement require officers to carry nearly a dozen different things at all times.

“A big flashlight, our gun, two magazines. We carry handcuffs, we carry a latex glove pouch, keys, a radio,” Lieutenant Jason Sundbakken at Minot Police Department explained.

That’s nearly 20 pounds of additional weight, and it led Lieutenant Sundbakken to seek out a grant for load-bearing support vests.

“I’ve been a police officer now for 20 years,” he said, “and when you have that much weight that you carry on your hips and your lower back for that many years, a lot of officers wind up at the end of their careers with back problems as a result of all that weight.”

If officers choose to wear them, they can take the ballistic panels from their bulletproof vests and wear them on the inside layer of the new ones.

The weight comes from the outside layer that holds up to five pouches to disperse the equipment – and the weight.

“I have my extra magazines right here on the front of the vest, I’ve got my body camera, also my set of body cuffs here,” Officer Andy Mehlhoff explained.

Officer in training, Patrick Blanchard said his is set up a bit differently.

“The more I can get on to that, I put it on there. Just for the reason that I have a small waist anyways so I don’t have a lot of room to put stuff on my waist, and it’s just more comfortable for me.”

Mehlhoff said, “It just reduces stress off our spinal cord, which ultimately is what we’re going for, try to reduce those work-related injuries.”

Lieutenant Sundbakken said these vests will help with longevity and health of the police workforce.

Officers Melholff and Blanchard said the weight distribution from the vests have noticeably helped their backs already.

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