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Lincoln police officers sport new look

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Some of Lincoln’s police officers may be ditching their traditional duty belts and opting for something called a load bearing vest. That’s according to Lt. Paul Shelgren, who said the vests are optional for officers to use. “Officers will be wearing load bearing vests that will allow them to equally distribute the weight of the equipment they are required to carry,” Shelgren said. “By replacing the current ‘duty belt,’ officers will be able to take more than 20 pounds off their waist and will reduce the daily strain that is placed on the lower back and abdomen.” He said duty belts typically contain items including two handcuffs, a radio, flashlight, tazer, baton, a sidearm and two magazines. The load bearing vest commonly used on the east coast and in the mid-west, according to Shelgren, and are just starting to be used in California. The vests cost $280 a piece, and Shelgren said Thursday the officers are paying for the vest themselves. “The officers came forth with this and said ‘We’d like to do it’,” Shelgren said. “They know budget times are tough and said they’d be willing to pay for their own (vests).” Shelgren said the vests will reduce work related injuries, because they take weight off hips and lower back, distributing the weight more evenly, taking stress and pain off of the lower back. The vests could also reduce worker compensation claims. “We want to be proactive, and not wait until someone gets hurt and has a lower back injury,” Shelgren said, who told The News Messenger that he has a lower back injury attributed to the duty belt. “It’s one of those things that’s a hazard of the job.” The vests are supplied from the Richard Cowell Company, who Shelgren said have been supplying vests to officers to law enforcement since 1979. “This is an effective option for patrol officers and will add a little extra comfort and mobility as they carry out their daily duties,” Shelgren said.