In Gresham, Or., the look of law and order is about to really stand out, The Oregonian reports. The city’s police department in the next five years will purchase exterior protective ballistic vests for all officers, giving patrol cops the uncommon option to wear the vests on top of uniforms rather than underneath. The change makes Gresham the first agency regionally to adopt the look, joining the likes of Chicago, Phoenix, and Fremont, Ca.
Gresham says the move has little to do with appearance and more to do with ergonomics. Ballistic panels fit snugly into a vest either way, but wearing one outside the uniform lets officers better distribute some 20 pounds of equipment. Criminal justice experts warn that the look could invite unintended consequences. They suggest a militaristic uniform could intimidate the public and could cause some officers to become more authoritative or aggressive. “I don’t think you can realistically expect to change the look of the uniform without changing the occupational personality of the person wearing it,” said Ernest Nickels, an assistant professor of public justice with the State University of New York at Oswego, one of a handful of academics who has studied police uniforms.