Minneapolis police are testing a new seat belt system for squad cars that would no longer require officers to have to reach across suspects to buckle them in.
As officers secure passengers into the backseat by stretching seat belts across them, they can expose themselves to injury by unruly suspects, authorities say.
"Safetywise, that is a real concern," said Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder.
On Friday, Minneapolis police started the trial by installing one new belt system in a squad. The belt is unfastened from the partition in front of the passenger and the officer stretches it straight back on the same side to buckle without having to lean across the passenger. (See video above for demonstration.) The system is a hybrid of products from two different companies, Prisoner Transport Systems, which makes the plastic seat and the belt system, and Troy Products, which makes the partition that Minneapolis is using.
According to an online product description:
"The OS-BELT™ System was designed to allow the Officer to strap a passenger in the vehicle without ever reaching across the passenger. With the OS-BELT™ system the risk of an Officer being injured by an unruly passenger is greatly reduced. The system is made so that the buckle and tongue for the belt retractor system are on the door side of the vehicle rather than in the center of the vehicle where an officer would have to reach across a prisoner putting himself at risk of being hit by the prisoner."