Dover police to start wearing new uniforms

Dover Police Master Cpl. Ian Thompson, left, is shown in the department’s older style uniforms, while patrol officers Melissa Lake and Tyler Loomis wear the new ones. (Submitted photo/Dover Police Department)

DOVER — In the coming weeks, Dover police officers will transition to a new style of uniforms that include outer-worn ballistic vests, spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said in a news release Monday.

The uniforms are not designed to be SWAT-style, authorities said, and the change was needed after the police department’s supplier closed its business in 2019.

According to Dover police, the closure caused “an inability to easily obtain the traditional gray and blue uniforms we have worn. Similar styles were available, but differed in color and were significantly more expensive.”

A uniform committee determined changes to uniforms and the placement of required duty equipment to enhance the health and safety of officers, in addition to cost savings, Cpl. Hoffman said.

The vests will be worn on the outside of the uniform shirt. Much of the duty gear previously worn on the belt will be moved up and worn in specially designed pouches and holsters attached to the vest, police said.

Traditional duty belts can weigh as much as 25 pounds. Studies show that long-term consequences of carrying this much weight around the waist include hip and back problems, according to authorities.

Back injuries are one of the most common work-related injuries suffered by law enforcement officers, resulting in exorbitant treatment costs, police said.

Dover police referenced a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire research team study that determined that load-bearing vests are a safer and healthier alternative to the traditional duty belt, proving that load-bearing vests help better distribute the weight of all the tools officers carry, and the tools will no longer push up against pressure points on officers’ backs.

Researchers also determined that the vests do not limit the officers’ range of motion or create other issues that would be problematic for the officers from a safety standpoint.

Research has shown that outer-worn vests cause a more moderate impact on the officers’ body temperature than vests worn under the uniform. Vests worn underneath result in dangerous core temperatures during times of physical exertion and prolonged exposure to the high temperatures we often see in Delaware during the summer.

The outer-worn vests, in conjunction with uniforms made of a cooler material blend, will result in a reduction of officers’ exposure to dangerously high body temperatures. More importantly, the outer-worn vests can be quickly removed if officers need to enter a body of water or if the officer requires lifesaving medical care due to trauma, police said.

Uniforms will continue to clearly display “DOVER POLICE,” have city of Dover police patches on the shoulder and have a badge on the left chest. The officer’s name will be displayed on the right chest, as always. The uniform shirts will come in long- and short-sleeved configurations.

The new uniforms are less expensive than the current duty uniforms at initial purchase and the improved material blend is more durable than the traditional uniforms, which frequently require expensive replacement, police said.

The new uniforms should also help reduce dry-cleaning costs for the department, according to authorities.

The traditional gray and blue uniform will still be worn for certain assignments, court appearances and ceremonies. However, the majority of the agency will be wearing the new navy blue “utility uniform” for normal duties, police said.