HAYS — Hays Police Department Patrol Officer Derick Nordell hasn’t been to the chiropractor since he started wearing the department’s new uniform.
“I don’t feel any of the weight from my belt,” Nordell said, pointing out the service revolver, taser, magazine clips, multiple handcuffs, baton, gloves, radio, flashlight, recorder and keys on the leather duty belt he wears around his waist.
A new suspender harness system attached to the belt, with shoulder pads, takes the weight off his hips and distributes it across his shoulders, relieving his back, Nordell said.
“With this system, you can’t feel any of it, it’s wonderful,” he said. “You don’t even really feel the belt, it just kind of hangs there.”
Nordell and the other 32 HPD officers were issued new uniforms Sept. 27, a big change after wearing the same style since the 1950s.
The actual date is hard to pin down, said Chief Don Scheibler. But Chief Lawrence Younger wore the pink-tan pants with the blue stripe down the leg and dark navy shirt in 1957 when he started, so at least since then.
In 2018 the department budgeted $46,500 to upgrade the uniform. An HPD committee this summer, after months of research and testing, chose the same color dark navy shirt, but made of a poly-wool blend, and dark navy pants by Blauer Mfg. Co. Inc. from Southern Uniform & Equipment, Carthage, Mo., for $30,401. New high-gloss style leather duty belts with suspenders were $14,610.57 from GT Distributors, Austin, Texas.
The new uniform includes an outer carrier for the bullet-proof vest, with side zippers, making it easy to take off when officers are inside writing reports. With the old uniform, officers wore the vest under their shirts.
“You were stuck in that all day long,” Scheibler said. “Even when it was 110 degrees out, which sometimes it happens in Hays America.”
The new undershirt is made of a wicking material that keeps officers dry.
The pants have six pockets, including on the side, for extra storage. Nordell said they’re more comfortable.
“The pants feel a lot more flexible. If I have to, I feel like I can run now,” he said. “This new uniform’s a huge step forward.”
HPD also has a new logo patch. The department asked a student at Fort Hays State University to help design a patch with wheat shocks, the Fort Hays blockhouse, and “Est. 1867.” That logo replaces the Pete Felten buffalo sculpture and blockhouse design adopted in the late 1990s.