As of Thursday, Berkeley Police Department patrol officers have the option to buy new externally worn ballistic carriers designed to improve comfort and increase career longevity.
According to BPD spokesperson Andrew Frankel, these carriers hold the officers’ bulletproof vests and distribute the weight of equipment that they otherwise carry on their duty belt, which weighs about 30 pounds on average.
Frankel added that BPD is not paying for the new carriers. If officers are interested in the carriers, Frankel said, they can pay $400 out of their own pockets or their yearly “uniform allowance,” which they also use to pay for their police boots and uniform.
“I’m one of those guys who experienced back problems,” Frankel said. “Today is my third day wearing it and I’m happy with it.”
According to Frankel, approximately 40 out of 76 BPD patrol officers bought the new carriers.
BPD sent out a Nixle alert Thursday to notify Berkeley residents of the change in uniform. The alert stated that this type of vest carrier is also being used by 11 other police agencies around Alameda County.
“Part of it is communicating to the public as to why the police officers are looking different,” Frankel said. “Appearance-wise, we wanted it to look more like our uniform shirts and less like a tactical vest.”
Chair of the Police Review Commission George Lippman said he doesn’t see any problem with the new vest carriers, as it is optional and not budgetary.
“I’m personally more concerned about offensive technology, such as the type of assault vehicles,” Lippman said. “We have to stay focused on the things that are critical.”