New vests add safety for Cottonwood Heights police
The newest way to help fight crime comes in the form of a jacket. Motorcycle officers in Cottonwood Heights now wear specially-designed vests that act as airbags if they are thrown from their bikes.
“There’s no downside to this,” Police Chief Robby Russo said. “In my opinion, every officer on a bike in this state should be wearing one.”
The air vests are designed to inflate and protect riders’ major organs, neck and spine from hitting the asphalt. A special neck cushion and brace also inflate to stabilize and protect the spine from impact.
The vests are attached to a compression canister which is attached to a clip that the officer unhooks when he gets off his motorcycle. The canister will not inflate the jacket unless the pin is pulled with a force of 66 pounds to avoid accidental inflation. The jackets can be deflated and reused.
“These vests can take a beating,” Russo said. “They can skid across the black top and won’t pop.”
Sgt. Scott Peck was in a serious motorcycle accident in 1990. His injuries were so severe, he was listed as a trauma one with multiple injuries at LDS hospital.
“I was in the prime of my career,” Peck said. “I was lucky I was able to continue my career.”
Peck says having one of these vests on would have significantly lessened his injuries.
“Not only would it have protected me, but having this kind of vest after my accident would have given me and my wife a sense of security,” Peck said.
The Cottonwood Heights Police Department is the first in the state to buy them for officers, but professional riders have been using them for years and they are standard in Europe.
“When you weigh the cost of a $350 jacket to the cost of a basic MRI at $800 to $1,000, plus the time that officer is off the road, there’s no comparison,” Russo said.
The vests are made very lightweight and can be worn all season without covering up any of the markings on a police uniform. In the winter, they can be worn either over or under an officer’s coat.
“From an ethical standpoint, it’s just the right thing to do to keep our officers safe while they are keeping this city safe. The vests are just awesome,” Russo said.
“I think they should be standard for anyone who rides a bike,” Peck said. “In my opinion, it’s as important as wearing a helmet.”
Money to pay for the jackets came from the police department budget.