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William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

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How to Not Look Like a Rookie

Avoid telltale fashion faux pas that could get you into trouble off duty.

February 07, 2008  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

My old police academy was near a large mall. Of course, the food court was a lunch hangout for the officers. I used to sit there with a coffee and spot all of the off-duty rookies. Bet I can spot one a mile away. Got to love them, they are creatures of habit. But some of their common fashion faux pas could get you into a fix, tactically and legally.

Where is the T-shirt Vendor?

One way to a cop's heart I guess is a cool cop T-shirt. My wife recently inventoried my closet and told me that I have enough T-shirts to outfit a battalion. I am guilty as well. The problematic ones are the shirts that could get you into a legal quandary.

The "kill 'em all" shirts may be cool on the range, but what happens if you are involved in a shooting and somebody recalls you wearing this vintage Wild West statement? You could have to explain your fashion statement on the stand without looking like a pistolero.

Use your head here and add some decorum. Besides legal issues, your choice of T-shirt could get you identified as a cop by some creep. You could get into a confrontation, armed or not; it may not be worth it.

I am not against wearing cool shirts in your off time, but the pistol packin', lead slingin', butt whoopin' statements do not speak well for what we want to call a profession in the public's eye. In the gym, on the range, or after hours with our pals they can be acceptable. Just watch your back in public; you never know who is watching.

Pistol Concealment, Not Pistol Bulges

I used to live in Savannah, Ga., which is a nearly semi-tropical environment at times. We on the job carried off-duty and usually could without too many eyebrows raised. Carrying a weapon discreetly and not frightening others is the key here. If it can be done in a hot climate then it can be done nearly anywhere.

Yes, I have seen the young officer with a large fire-breather tucked in his jeans and cool T-shirt pulled over it. Get real and get cool; seek out alternative methods of carry, and clothing is a part. Many of the police clothing outfitters now have concealed carry clothing available. Check these out for off-duty or plain clothes wear.

Fashion Police

Let's see, blue jeans and sneakers. Folding knife in front pocket with spring clip nicely showing, or a better yet a knife tucked in the belt line for the macho set. Your cell phone is on the opposite side of your body from a large bulge that your T-shirt covers. The T-shirt, a really manly T-shirt, in black of course with some locked and loaded phrase. Right rear pocket has the distinct impression of a shield. Set of wrap-around shades, cool baseball hat with gun maker logo, and of course the brim has the right crush to it.

This is off-duty chic and do not get angry when someone asks you if you are cop. Spotted you or did I? Academies need to include instruction on off-duty carry and forms of discreet but tactically sound carry.

The reality statement here is that we want this calling, this vocation, to be a profession. We must conduct ourselves like we are professionals, not only on-duty but off-duty. One rogue cop can ruin the positive impression of others. I have said this a thousand times; it is perfectly legal to carry the life-saving tools of your profession with you off-duty to protect yourself and others. I want it to make this country safer. But, let's do so in a positive and professional manner.

Note: This article was written in one cool black T-shirt.

Train hard and train smart; train with safety in mind.


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