Innovations to Serve and Protect: New Trends in Duty Gear

Jan. 9, 2024
Find out what some of the emerging trends in police and law enforcement duty gear, especially when it comes to comfort and officer well-being.

Law enforcement professionals are no strangers to change. As the world around them evolves, so do the tools they rely on to ensure public safety and maintain order. In recent years, a remarkable transformation has taken place in the landscape of law enforcement duty gear. I’ve had the privilege to connect with representatives from some of the leading gear manufacturers and distributors in the industry, and their insights shed light on the exciting trends shaping the future of law enforcement equipment.

This article appeared in the September/October issue of OFFICER Magazine. Click Here to subscribe to OFFICER Magazine.

Load bearing vests

Matt Baumeyer, from Siegel’s Uniforms, highlighted a significant shift in the way duty gear is being worn. “We are starting to see more and more accounts go to load bearing vests, which allows them to wear the duty gear on the vest vs on the duty belt,” Baumeyer explained. This change offers officers greater flexibility and comfort during their shifts. Brands now offer a wide variety of gear options that can be attached to load bearing vests, accommodating both molle and belt attachments. This trend not only optimizes officer mobility but also helps distribute weight more evenly, reducing the strain of extended wear.    

A transition in style

Karen Ballengee, from Southern Police Equipment, emphasized the importance of comfort in law enforcement gear. “What Southern Police is seeing the most of in the leather products, is a transition over to being more comfortable,” Ballengee noted. This transition includes moving from bulkier 4-row stitch leather belts to more streamlined 1 1/2 inch leather belts for wearing with BDUs and polos. Southern Police Equipment’s innovative approach extended to the development of a pancake-style leather holster and magazine holder, prioritizing comfort and function. Moreover, the use of cowhide leather, designed for comfort, durability, and a casual look, is gaining traction. The move towards nylon and molle outer vest carriers reflects the industry’s dedication to enhancing officer comfort while addressing the need for practicality and adaptability in a dynamic environment.     

Innovative collaboration

Chris Skahill from 5.11 Tactical  highlighted the importance of collaboration and purpose-built design in the evolution of law enforcement gear. “5.11 exemplifies commitment by engaging end-users, partnering with top company partners, and prioritizing safety features,” Skahill emphasized. 5.11 Tactical’s gear is developed with a profound dedication to serving those who rely on it. The company involves end-users in the development process to ensure the highest standards of comfort, durability, functionality, performance, and safety are met. Technological innovation plays a pivotal role in 5.11’s approach, with partnerships that integrate cutting-edge technologies into their gear. Skahill noted, “In terms of product features, 5.11 focuses on excelling in areas such as Bloodborne Pathogen protection, anti-microbial properties, and the capability to be laundered at home.” This commitment underscores the company’s dedication to serving the diverse needs of law enforcement professionals.

The trident approach

Jason Semple from LEGEAR  delved into a comprehensive and innovative approach to law enforcement gear development, shedding light on the strides being made to provide officers with the best possible equipment for their demanding roles. “Modern policing requires an equally modern approach to equipment and apparel,” Semple noted. LEGEAR’s Trident approach, incorporating manufacturer expertise, end-user insights, and academic validation, is a proactive means of ensuring gear aligns with operational needs, ultimately elevating the standards of law enforcement equipment.

The Trident approach recognizes that law enforcement officers face increasingly complex challenges, necessitating gear that is not only functional but also adaptive and tailored to specific requirements. This approach involves three key contribution streams, as Semple indicated, drawing an analogy to the trident itself:
  1. The Manufacturer/Supplier SMEs: The expertise of gear manufacturers is harnessed to develop equipment that meets the rigorous demands of law enforcement duties. Manufacturers like LEGEAR work diligently to create solutions that address the unique needs of officers in various roles, environments, and situations. 
  2. The End-User or Operational SMEs: The crucial input from officers themselves forms the backbone of the Trident approach. These end-users provide real-world insights into the challenges they face, the functionalities they require, and the comfort they need during extended shifts. This collaboration ensures that gear is designed with the officer's perspective at the forefront. 
  3. Academic Review & Validation: Academic institutions such as Bond University's Tactical Research Unit (TRU) play a pivotal role in validating the effectiveness and safety of law enforcement gear. Semple explained, "The TRU is a network of multidisciplinary international experts who investigate ways to optimize the physical and cognitive capabilities, and safety of tactical personnel." Through academic research, gear features are refined, improved, and validated, ensuring they align with scientific principles and real-world needs.

This comprehensive approach not only ensures the quality and effectiveness of law enforcement gear but also addresses the ever-evolving demands officers face. The TRU’s data-driven approach offers insights into areas critical to officer well-being and performance:

In a rapidly evolving law enforcement landscape, LEGEAR’s Trident approach stands as a beacon of innovation, collaboration, and scientific rigor. Through the convergence of manufacturer expertise, end-user insights, and academic validation, the Trident approach ensures that law enforcement officers are equipped with gear that is purpose-built, effective, and well-suited to the challenges they face. As the law enforcement industry continues to progress, it’s initiatives like this that drive positive change, making our communities safer and our officers better equipped to serve and protect.

Prioritizing officer well-being

Matteo Recanatini from Hero's Pride  emphasized the pivotal role that officer well-being plays in the development of modern law enforcement gear. As the demands on law enforcement professionals continue to evolve, so does the need for gear that not only enhances safety and efficiency but also contributes to officers’ overall physical and mental health. “Comfort and ergonomic considerations have gained prominence in recent trends,” Recanatini highlighted, reflecting a growing awareness of the impact of gear on officers’ well-being.

The trend towards ergonomic and comfortable design takes into account the long hours officers spend in their gear, often under physically demanding circumstances. Prolonged use of improperly designed gear can lead to discomfort, fatigue, and even injury, ultimately affecting officers’ ability to perform their duties effectively. In response to this, manufacturers like Hero’s Pride are innovating with designs and materials that prioritize both functionality and comfort.

Recanatini’s mention of lightweight designs and ergonomic considerations indicates a move towards gear that not only provides essential functionality but also minimizes strain on officers’ bodies. This trend involves the strategic distribution of weight, the reduction of pressure points, and designs that allow for natural movement. The recognition of officers’ physical comfort as a critical factor in their operational success represents a profound shift in the industry’s approach to gear development.

Additionally, the incorporation of technology integration is another aspect of the trend towards officer well-being. Gear manufacturers are acknowledging the increasing use of technology in law enforcement operations and ensuring that gear is designed to accommodate and support these advancements. This includes considerations for cable management, power sources, and specialized compartments that house communication devices and other essential tools. By addressing these needs, manufacturers are contributing to officers’ ability to navigate their tasks efficiently and with less physical strain.    

It’s also worth highlighting the trend towards gear that is resilient against bloodborne pathogens and chemical agents. Recanatini mentioned the importance of incorporating materials that can withstand contamination and exposure to hazardous substances. This trend is a testament to the industry’s commitment to safeguarding officers’ health in a variety of operational contexts. By developing gear that offers protection against potential health risks, manufacturers are actively contributing to officers’ overall well-being.

Ultimately, the emerging trends in law enforcement gear underscore the industry’s recognition of officers as not just professionals, but individuals with unique physical and mental needs. The move towards comfort-centric design, lightweight gear, and technology integration is a reflection of the dedication to enhancing officers’ operational capabilities while minimizing the toll that their gear might take on their bodies.

This holistic approach to officer well-being is an investment in the effectiveness and longevity of law enforcement professionals. As the challenges and responsibilities of law enforcement continue to grow, gear manufacturers like Hero’s Pride are taking bold steps to ensure that officers are equipped not only to meet those challenges but also to thrive in their roles. Through a harmonious blend of functionality, comfort, and adaptability, law enforcement gear is entering an era that places the well-being of officers at the forefront.

A gear evolution in progress

The landscape of law enforcement duty gear is in the midst of a transformation driven by innovation, collaboration, and a dedication to serving those who serve. As officers’ responsibilities continue to expand, gear manufacturers and distributors are rising to the occasion with purpose-built designs that prioritize comfort, safety, and adaptability. Load bearing vests, lightweight designs, and technological integration are shaping the way gear is worn and utilized. Comfort-centric leather products and innovative collaborations underscore a commitment to officers’ well-being. Through a holistic approach that addresses physical and mental needs, the industry is ushering in a new era of law enforcement duty gear that truly serves and protects those who uphold the law.

About the Author

Rick Levine is the Executive Director of NAUMD, a global network of uniform manufacturers and distributors. Contact him at [email protected] and visit for more information

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