Why Detectives Dress Well: “Suits Mean Business”


The New York Times explores why so many police detectives dress so well. “The tradition of the dapper detective runs through years of law enforcement, surviving the rough-and-tumble of gritty streets and a trend [] toward dress-down Fridays and casual attire,” the paper says. “A suit and tie is our uniform,” said retired New York City homicide detective Joel Potter, 64. “A lot of times you're set up in a car at 3 in the morning, or there are two dead bodies on the sidewalk. And when you step out of the car, you look like a professional. They know the man is there. They know the suits mean business.”

There are about 5,400 detectives in the city, many involved in dangerous undercover work, dressing in jeans for drug busts or posing as mechanics in greasy work pants. Thousands of others not only work at crime scenes but also operate on the public front lines, notifying families of the death of a loved one, interviewing victims and witnesses or testifying at trials. Some psychologists lecture detectives on the influence of suit attire on suspects and the need to tip tailors to ensure that alterations hide the appearance of guns and handcuffs. “I suggest they bring along every piece of equipment when they go buy it,” said Richard Ovens. “You want the weapon to disappear.” Vernon Geberth wore suits before he retired as a detective commander in 1987. “I looked like a banker,” he said. “It put me in a different mode. It slowed me down: 'Look at this guy. He is all dressed up and he is in an abandoned building.' I am here to put things back together. I was above the fray–my psychological armor.”

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/nyregion/04detectives.html?ref=nyregion

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