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City Manager's Office
City Manager's Office
Press Contact: Andrew Frankel, Sgt/PIO, (510) 981-5780

BPD'S NEW LOOK FOR FALL

Berkeley, California (Thursday, August 10, 2017) -                                 BPD's New Look

  BPD's new look isn't likely to make the runways of Milan or Paris but what department leadership hope it will do, is keep officers out of the doctor's office.  The Berkeley Police Department will soon be fielding an externally worn ballistic carrier (bullet proof vest) as a uniform option for patrol officers.  The item is intended to reduce worker's compensation claims, improve comfort, increase career longevity, and in doing so, raise morale. 

Officers currently wear the traditional "Sam Brown" belt which is used to carry their firearm, ammunition, collapsible baton, wood baton, pepper spray, radio, flashlight, tourniquet, keys, and 1-2 pairs of handcuffs.  The average duty belt weighs in at nearly 25 pounds and is a well-known contributor to job related back issues which chronically plague police.    

The Police Department has been working with Kevin Walker, the City of Berkeley's Occupational Health and Safety Officer, to evaluate the benefits of external carriers.  According to Walker, "At this point and for the next decade, the vest is proving to be the most effective and best cost option for departments. So, reducing weight and distributing weight to the larger muscles of the back and shoulders is the most promising method of decreasing the negative cumulative effect of the duty belt."  As part of his analysis Walker conducted a review of police officer injures for the period between January 1, 2013 and December 31st 2016 and identified 24 incidents involving mid or lower back injuries that occurred during patrol activities.  He states, "These injuries represent some of the most expensive and the most severe injuries during the selected time period." He goes on to say, "Utilization of the carrier vest and a comprehensive wellness program are targeted safety improvements that will positively affect future losses."

The carrier itself is designed to resemble a uniform shirt when viewed from a distance.  It features the same mounting points for name tags and badges (individual officers may elect to have these items embroidered) and will allow heavier items from their belts to be carried in pouches on the vest where the load can be more evenly distributed.  This product and ones like it are already in use with 11 different police agencies around Alameda County. At this point the department isn't issuing the $400 carrier but are authorizing it for officers to independently purchase and wear.   

The City of Berkeley Police Department remains as committed to the wellness of its employees as it does the safety of its community.   

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