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Columbus Police Officers Testing Out New Uniform

Columbus Division of Police
The uniform includes a blue top and a protective vest worn outside the shirt.

The Columbus Division of Police is testing out a new uniform meant to improve officer comfort and safety.

Right now, 24 officers of different sexes and body types are testing out a new police uniform.

“Officers were saying things like, ‘The uniform is great. It’s white but it gets dirty really easily. The armor pretty much against your skin doesn’t let you breathe. It’s really, really hot. It’s constricting,’” Columbus Police Industrial Hygienist Iris Velasco explains.

The new uniform includes a dark blue top instead of the current white one, and an external vest.

“The external vest, since it holds your armor inside, mobility is better. You can breathe better because you can actually open up the vest on the sides to vent. You can even take it off if you’re in a secure facility,” Velasco said. “They come with suspenders where you can actually hold up the weight of your gun belt underneath your vest. That just helps with some pain and discomfort from all that weight.”

Gun belts normally add around 30 lb. of extra weight to officers’ hips, and can cause back injury after long-term use.

Velasco works on occupational safety and health for the police department. She says the officers testing the uniforms are responding positively so far.

“Right away, an officer put it on and said even though I was warm when I got dressed, I cooled off really fast. And that never happens over an 8 or 10 hour shift,” Velasco said. “In the current uniform, they’ll sweat and they stay wet all shift. And it’s very uncomfortable.”

The pilot started at the end of August and will continue through November. The department hopes to issue new uniforms to all officers next year.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.