Earlier this week we began answering a question posed by a former student about laptop trays used in police cruisers. The same Back Scholar had a follow-up question regarding more ergonomic solutions for the utility belts that officers carry while on duty. Part one can be found here, and again the original question follows:
“I was wondering if you might have any resources you could direct me to on ergonomics related to police officers, not in regards to arrests, foot pursuits, use of force etc., but more specifically solutions that might address positioning in the squad car while using the computer terminal (most I’ve seen have the officer twisted to the right) and also in regards to the equipment (belts) they wear—reducing the weight. I’ll take anything else you might know of beyond what I specifically asked for, if it is related to ergonomic risks/solutions for police officers.”
Ron cited Wikipedia’s article on police duty belts noting a variety of different measures that certain police forces are taking in an effort to find more ergonomic solutions for their officers. Here are some key points:
Most duty belts have a width of 2-1/4 inches and are either made of ballistic nylon or leather. Many Canadian police departments have had officers complain of having back pain due to their supposedly rigid leather belts. In response, many Canadian departments are now switching to nylon belts because they are considered by some to be more flexible. The Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), the second largest municipal police service in Canada gave a contract to a consulting firm in order to find more ergonomic solutions.
In Australia instead of belts the WA Police are trending towards wearing Vests with more equipment in them than belts due to back problems, and maneuverability. Older belts used to fail under the weight of whatever was carried; recently manufacturers have introduced double ply belts which retain their shape and can withstand the weight of the equipment.
Nylon duty gear is generally less expensive, lighter, and easier to maintain than leather gear of comparable quality. However, leather gear is generally regarded as having a more traditional and professional appearance. To combine the best of both materials, companies like Bianchi manufacture nylon duty gear that has the appearance of leather.
Belt suspenders allow the wearer to move a portion of the weight of the belt onto the shoulders, reducing the weight imposed on the lower back. This also means that the belt does not have to be worn as tightly, cutting down on pressure exerted on the stomach and waist area. However, there are also safety concerns over suspenders, as they can be used against the officer in the event of a struggle, but newer versions such as break off act like a clip-on tie when pulled, reducing the risk of any injury to the officer.