Texas county police step into 'more professional' uniforms

Dark blue attire more breathable, police officials say

By David Kassabian
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times

NUECES COUNTY, Tex. A uniform makeover is coming for most Nueces County law enforcement officers beginning in January, with sheriff's officers changing attire all at once and police officers shifting uniforms gradually throughout three years.

The Corpus Christi Police Department will switch officers' light blue uniform shirts with a dark blue version made of more-breathable material whenever the old shirts wear out, officials said. A new patch design featuring a dark blue background to match the shirt color will be included with the new tops. Officers' pants will be simpler, with cargo pockets instead of braiding that now runs the length of each leg.

At the Nueces County Sheriff's Department, patrol and correctional officers will sport different uniform styles with the same color scheme. Sheriff's deputies will have dark blue pants with braiding and a tan shirt. Correctional officers will have dark blue, military-style pants featuring cargo pockets and tan polo-style shirts, said Sheriff Jim Kaelin.

Police Chief Bryan Smith said earlier this year that blue-on-blue uniforms are an increasingly accepted standard for police departments nationwide and convey a more professional look. Kaelin said his department's uniform change is to spur a new brand, one that is more respected than the current all-green standard.

"Our new uniform says this guy is a police officer, looks like a police officer and acts like police officer," Kaelin said. "We expect much more voluntary compliance. ... A green uniform doesn't reflect the command presence that I want."

Of the department's 321 employees, about 225 are in uniform, Kaelin said. Uniforms for those employees will cost between $60,000 and $70,000 and will be funded completely with money seized from drug dealers.

After a 30-day trial period, the new uniforms should be in place, Kaelin said. The department also will have a new patch and new color schemes on patrol cruisers.

At the police department, about 260 of 445 officers are in uniform, said Capt. Steve Mylett. Officers' uniforms will be switched out as old ones get worn out, he said. The new uniforms are marginally cheaper than the current style and no extra cost will be incurred by the department because the old style gradually will be replaced with the new.

"The public can expect to see Corpus Christi Police Department officers in a variety of uniforms between now and 2011," Mylett said.

Smith said he decided to explore a uniform change after 70 percent of 308 officers taking part in an online survey said they favored switching from the current light blue. Despite the uniform shirts getting darker, the new shade is not expected to make the tops hotter.

Copyright 2007 Corpus Christi Caller-Times

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