Few things promote the rich heritage of the law enforcement community like an officer’s uniform. Uniforms immediately provide a sense of identity and communicate authority and professionalism to the general public.
There are many factors that law enforcement agencies should consider before making uniform purchasing decisions. Here are the most important aspects of uniforms to consider when contemplating a purchase for your department:
1. Comfort: Think about what duties you’ll be performing when in certain types of uniforms, as well as factors such as climate. Ensuring that officers can perform in comfort and not be distracted by itchy, hot, or uncomfortable uniforms is job number one when buying uniforms.
Fabric is the most important factor when considering comfort. When assessing a uniform’s fabric, consider its weight; look for lightweight uniforms as you don’t want it to increase the work rate by adding to the load. Also look for fabrics that are breathable and wickable; breathable fabric allows heat to pass away from the body and welcome cooler air toward the body, while wickable fabrics transport sweat away from the body.
2. Function: Does the uniform and its features integrate with your existing duty gear and enhance job performance instead of getting in the way of job performance?
3. Durability: You want your uniform purchase to provide lasting quality. Do your homework to ensure your uniforms are being made with the finest construction and materials. Also check to make sure the manufacturer or distributor has a warranty program in place before placing an order.
4. Fit: It is vital to ensure proper fit and sizing before placing your uniform order. Use a measurement guide to accurately determine measurements for areas such as waist, chest, hips, bust, sleeve, neck and inseam. Proper fit optimizes mobility and comfort.
5. Program management: Uniform program management can help police departments manage and maximize their uniform budgets. In addition, a managed program saves the department time and resources spent on administrative tasks.
6. Ease of ordering: Web-based uniform management programs allow users to order only products authorized for their job classification or department and help keep track of the department’s annual uniform budget. These programs also offer web tracking that can provide data such as ordering trends, inventory/stock management, tracking of past orders and ship dates of current orders.
7. Maintenance: Uniforms require regular washing in order for officers to keep up their appearance and a few runs in a laundry machine should not have any affect on them. Make sure to regularly asses the uniforms after they are cleaned, taking note of what machines, chemicals, and the process used.
Never stop evaluating: A department should consider using an evaluation form to collect data and compare products from multiple vendors to ensure the products and service capabilities meet the needs of the department.
Do you have any other suggestions for officers purchasing and evaluating uniforms? Please leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.
Departments can apply for 2009 ARRA "Stimulus" funding to purchase uniforms. Visit PoliceGrantsHelp to learn how.
Hayley Fudge from Lion Apparel contributed to this report.