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To protect health of officers, Locust Police shifting to wearing load-bearing vests

In order to ensure the health and safety of its officers, the Locust Police Department have made a key change to how officers carry equipment.

The department is shifting from wearing the traditional duty belts to wearing load-bearing vests, also known as LBVs.

Officers who wear their equipment on LBVs experience significantly less hip and lower-back pain, Assistant Police Chief Kevin O’Connor told the city council.

O’Connor compared the reasoning for the transition to someone who just bought a 30-pound bag of dog food, telling council “would you want to walk around for 12 hours with that dog food tied to your waist or on your shoulders?”

The city council tentatively approved the switch in March pending a request that a policy of standardization for the set-up of equipment on the vests be implemented. This would allow officers to avoid wearing unnecessary items, according to an April 30 directive signed by Chief Jeff Shew.

“We want our public to know that we value the long-term health of our officers but this change is in no way designed to create a less approachable or ‘militaristic’ officer,” Shew said in an email. “Our officers will continue to be as friendly, courteous and helpful as they’ve always been, these vests will just assist them to stay as physically healthy as possible while in-service but also at the end of their careers.”

Shew’s directive explains what can and cannot be worn as part of the shift. Above the mid-section/stomach area of the LBV, items that can be placed include police patch, officer name patch, badge, body camera and radio shoulder microphone.

Along the mid-section/stomach area (right above belt line) of the front of the LBV, items that can be placed include a radio, taser, (which must be placed on the opposite side of LBV from where firearm is worn), service duty weapon magazines, handcuff, small flashlight and tourniquet.

Items not permitted to be placed on the LBV include knives, unauthorized patches, unauthorized ammunition magazines and unauthorized weapons.

“It is a change most agencies have made and it was time that the Locust Police Department joined that trend,” Shew said, noting the department also plans to educate the public on the transition to LBVs through social media and the department’s website.

The city council unanimously approved Shew’s LBV directive.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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