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The American Police Uniform: History and Psychology

modern police uniform

The standard American police uniform must serve both psychological and practical needs and has evolved over time depending upon what has been required of law enforcement officers.

HISTORY

The first modern police uniform dates back to 1829 with the London Metropolitan Police. These famous “Bobbies” of London wore a dark blue paramilitary style uniform. The first official police force in the United States was the New York City Police Department in 1845. The NYPD and many others that followed adopted a similar approach to London in issuing paramilitary style uniforms in dark colors.

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Modern NYPD Police Uniform

SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE

Research shows that one’s clothing plays a large role in how that person is perceived in interactions with strangers. Therefore, it’s not accident that police uniforms often need to present the officer in a manner which commands respect. However, other factors much also be taken into consideration such as practicality and the current political climate.

For example, the imposing image of a state trooper can be extremely beneficial during a routine traffic stop by allowing the officer to approach the vehicle from a strong position of authority. Alternately, local police forces must constantly weigh the advantages of a more tactical appearance including the use of body armor as is the case of the NYPD officers who patrol Times Square vs a more casual look that helps the officer convey a friendly and and less imposing presence when patrolling neighborhoods.

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In our current times, finding the proper balance can often be a complicated balance of priorities.

CHANGES IN THE UNIFORM

Over the years, the American police uniform has continued to evolve to suit the needs of the times. For example, the optics of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri left many members of the public feeling uncomfortable with a tactical paramilitary style police uniform, however practical it may be. Police departments continue to wrestle with issues of practicality, public image, and comfort throughout the world, and these considerations are constantly evolving.

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Paramilitary Tactical Style Uniform

CONCLUSION

In addition to the myriad of complex issues our law enforcement officers face today, they must constantly balance public perception with issues of practicality and comfort. Thus, the choice of a police uniform is not one to be taken lightly and has great impact on the ability of these brave officers to serve and protect the public.

We here at Uniform Tactical Supply are grateful for the law enforcement officers throughout our country to risk their lives everyday to keep us safe.

 

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