LINCOLN CO. - Lt. Andy VanderWyst has used a leather belt to hold his equipment for most of his 14 years working with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.
"It takes its toll after sometime," said VanderWyst.
Deputies had to carry an extra 15 to 20 pounds alone on their belt. Then take into account the long shifts they work. They constantly get in and out of their squad cars and sit down to write reports.
"[It] puts a lot of weight [and] a lot of stress on your lower back and on your hips," said VanderWyst.
That stress led VanderWyst to look into other options. By the beginning of this year, deputies were using customizable vests. VanderWyst started looking at those options about a year and a half ago after getting the okay from the sheriff.
Chiropractor Bobbi Voermans works with law enforcement officers in the area, including VanderWyst.
"Usually low back pain is primary in 90 percent of the cases of law enforcement officers," said Voermans.
Voermans says lower back pain could affect certain organs and digestive system. She's seen a difference in the officers she treats since departments turned to vests from belts.
"They've had less pain and discomfort and more ability to do what they love with less pain," said Voermans.
Voermans thinks shoulder pain from the vests could happen, but she hasn't seen that just yet.
For VanderWyst, doing what he loves and feeling good means the most. The customizable vests cost about $450 and are helping VanderWyst and other officers do just that.
"I don't think you can necessarily really put a price tag on it as far as the physical wellbeing and the health of the officer," said VanderWyst.
Another reason the sheriff's office went with these vests was because they wanted to keep the traditional uniform look. The sheriff's office has ordered about 18 vests so far. Deputies also had the option of choosing whether or not they wanted the vests.