Bad design: Chicago police vests

Chicago police officers can be seen walking around the city in what are obviously their bulletproof vests. Many, though not all, uniformed officers are seen wearing these vests on the outside of the uniform shirt. What makes it a design failure?

Watch any of these officers for more than about three minutechicagopolicebulletproofvest.jpgs on any moderately warm day, and the officer can be seen lodging his or her thumbs behind the vest, lifting it just slightly off the chest. Perhaps it's an all-weather condition, perhaps it's not. But it certainly looks like the vest is either too hot or too bulky, making the thumbs-in-the-armholes maneuver almost universal.

Thus, instead of leaving the officer's hands free to do whatever they should be available to do (guard a weapon, guide traffic, or help a little old lady to cross the street), the design of the vest causes many an officer to stand in a completely unnatural and un-ready position for action. The vest acts like a giant pair of armpit-high pockets.

A well-designed vest would accommodate the need for officer safety while leaving the officer comfortable enough at all times that constant adjustment of the vest would be unnecessary. Like a miner's helmet with a lantern attached, the protective clothing should free the user's hands from having to do something, not require them to do more.