The appearance of many Washington, D.C., police officers, has changed sharply, says the Washington Post. Many have exchanged their usual slacks and light blue shirts for dark blue fatigues making them look like military commandos. Officials said they chose the new style for its comfort and durability. The department is one of only a few that allow officers to patrol in military-style garb; they can choose to wear the old uniforms. Most departments reserve the style for SWAT teams and special uses.
The new attire is known as the patrol service uniform, but officers call it by a military name, the battle dress uniform, or BDU. It comes with a cap that is styled after one used by the U.S. Marine Corps.
Some officials object to the style, fearing that it could send the wrong message to neighborhood residents. The new clothes have been a huge hit with officers, who say they are better designed for the fights and foot chases they face on the streets.
The old uniforms, which are made of heavy polyester blends and have to be dry-cleaned, are too hot and restrictive and prone to damage. Several officers said their slacks had ripped while they struggled with suspects, or even just when they squatted suddenly. “It’s like wearing church attire to do police work,” said Officer Rich Khoury, who was wearing the new fatigues yesterday.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said officers had asked him repeatedly to make the fatigues available to those in patrol. “They’re chasing suspects, going over fences and all that, and the BDUs just wear better for that type of activity,” Ramsey said.
Experts on police uniforms said many departments are experimenting with ways to make officers more comfortable and help them carry heavy gear. The New York Police Department introduced cargo pants in August to rave reviews from officers.