The Davis Police Department underwent a recent uniform change that is expected to reduce officers’ risk of on-the-job injuries.
In addition to wearing one designated color — blue, instead of the prior choice of black or blue — officers now suit up in “Point Blank” vests that hold nearly all the gear previously worn on their duty belts.
Sgt. Michael Munoz said research shows that many of the back injuries suffered by officers while at work are related to duty belts, which can weigh 25-plus pounds when fully loaded and, centered around the waist, make it more difficult for police to run, use defensive tactics or get in and out of their patrol cars.
If the belt is worn for at least five years, “any back injury you have is presumed to be on-the-job,” Munoz said.
The vests feature exterior pockets that accommodate all officer equipment except for the service weapon — which is required to remain on the belt — and more evenly distributes the weight over the officer’s torso. Interior pockets hold bulletproof panels, which previously were worn underneath the uniform shirt.
Although there were some concerns that the vests might appear “too militaristic,” the community has been receptive to the new look since it was unveiled last fall, according to Munoz.
“We’ve also had good reviews from the officers,” he said. Fewer back injuries “reduce the number of people out of work and reduces the money the city pays for workers compensation.”
Meanwhile, the department also received the first of what eventually will become a fleet of new vehicles — a Ford Explorer police-utility vehicle, or PUV. The Explorers are replacing the Crown Victoria model at a growing number of police agencies.
Ford has retired the Crown Victoria in favor of the newer model, which is built on the chassis of a Taurus sedan, but with an Explorer “skin.”
“It’s definitely a purpose-built vehicle,” able to retain its stability at high speeds and brake swiftly, Sgt. Rod Rifredi said. The Explorer also gets better gas mileage, offers better lumbar support and, because they sit higher, reduce officers’ risk of back and knee injuries from getting in and out of the car repeatedly.
“It’s much more functional for us,” Rifredi said.
Fully outfitted, the PUVs cost about $35,000 each, comparable to the Crown Victorias. The department was expected to get a second vehicle late last week, followed by another half-dozen over the next two years.
Rifredi said the improved model even got a thumbs-up from the first arrestee to be placed in the back seat, which also is a bit roomier than the previous models.
“Actually, this isn’t bad,” the man proclaimed while en route to the county jail, Rifredi said.
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene