By Annie Linskey
The Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE, MD. — The Baltimore Police Department doesn't have any more pants.
Sizes 36 and 38, to be exact.
"We are officially out today," said Officer Troy Harris, a department spokesman. "We're putting in an emergency order for those two sizes."
At the Howard Uniform Co., a frantic call came in from a city purchasing agent. "He said, 'The department is out of pants. We need these pants as fast as possible,'" George Shamdasani, a vice president for the supply company, said yesterday.
According to the Police Department, the shortage was an unintended consequence of recently hiring 240 new officers. But the police union president pinned the problem on plainclothes detectives raiding the supply closet because of a new initiative requiring that they walk foot patrols in uniform.
Whatever the reason, the tussle over trousers comes amid an upswing of homicides and shootings - during a week in which politicians, police officials and even an ex-police commissioner turned felon turned radio talk show host put forward their ideas on how to best fight crime.
Two city police officers laughed about the shortage but also said it's embarrassing - speaking volumes of the department's ability to take care of basic needs.
Harris, the department's spokesman, said the pants cost $39 a pair and cadets receive four pairs when they leave the academy. When officers need a new pair, they get them free but are required to turn in their old ones. "If [the pants] can be saved, they'll be cleaned and put back into rotation," Harris said.
The department declined to comment further on the pants shortage and wouldn't allow its quartermaster, who is in charge of supplies, to be interviewed.
Shamdasani, whose company supplies pants to the department, said he just delivered about 500 pairs of pants to the department four weeks ago.
Then on June 5, he said, the department put in an order for 480 pairs of pants - including men's sizes 30 to 44 and women's size 14.
"All of a sudden they're out of size 36," Shamdasani said yesterday, gesturing in frustration. "I just found out this morning that there is a need for a rush."
The trousers worn by Baltimore City police officers are a custom-made navy blue with a black braid down the side and cannot be purchased off the rack. So Shamdasani immediately contacted the factory in Georgia that manufactures the pants and begged them to rush the order.
He's not optimistic. The workers at the factory go on vacation for two weeks in the beginning of July.
Paul Blair, the president of the police union, speculated that the shortage resulted from a new, unpopular policy of ordering plainclothes detectives to put on their uniforms and walk foot beats.
"I know there's been a big demand with all the detectives getting on patrol," he said. "I'm sure that some of them are raiding the quartermaster."
But Blair played down the pants problem. "Of all the things to write about ... because they ran out of size 36 pants?" he said when asked about the shortage. "That is not one of the big crises that the union is facing."
Blair said officers with holes in their trousers ought to ask to borrow pairs from colleagues until a new order comes in. And he noted that he just lost about 50 pounds and might need a few new pairs himself.
But officers sans pants are irked.
"It is the little things that really make our job tough," said one patrol officer who wears size 32 pants but said he was recently turned away from the supply office. "This is one of those things that is never talked about. If the public ever knew they'd be like, 'What? Are you kidding me?' "
The officer, who was granted anonymity because he's not allowed to talk about pants without permission from the public affairs office, said that each of his six pairs of pants has problems - including a broken zipper, as well as holes in the pockets and in other unmentionable places.
"They wear out," he said. "I've got holes in them from chasing people. They rip."
Another officer, who wears the in-demand size of 36, was also recently turned away from the quartermaster's office.
"When you go to get pants they look at you as if you're asking for a newborn," he said. "Pants are a hot commodity. When I asked for pants they just laughed."
The officer, who was also granted anonymity because the public affairs office didn't give him permission to speak, said he solved his problem by taking an old pair of pants to his tailor.
Harris, the department spokesman, said the supply unit will take care of adjustments for officers. The police officer said he couldn't afford to wait weeks to procure a pair that fits.
Copyright 2007 The Baltimore Sun
Baltimore police run out of pants