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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



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.


Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

mleonard @ 2/8/2008 7:51 AM

The writer is correct that Badly worded T's are a professional no-no. However he forgot to mention that it really isn't cool with friends or colleagues off duty either. Are we forgetting that what we practice off duty is what we also do on-duty. Bias-prejudice or bad guy statements are wrong period. We are always public servants so we must rid ourselves of off color remarks both on and off duty. We taught t oserve and protect not scrutinize and demean people. Some of the bad guys are someone's family.

Falcione @ 2/8/2008 9:52 AM

So, "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" is inappropriate? Way to state the obvious Bill. But you forgot about the other obvious element here...fanny packs! Listen guys, if you're a highly motivated, hard-charging, mean motor scooter (PC version), then you're probably constantly checking your six and doling out "death to you" scowls to every dirt bag that crosses your path when you're off-duty. So...you're gonna get made anyway. The best advice is something I learned in the Boy Scouts..."Always be prepared"...for a fight!

DomRizzi @ 2/8/2008 12:22 PM

I could't stop laughing. Bill, you are right on the money. I gave all of those t-shirts to my nephew years ago. We refer to these guys as the "Hair Gel" police. Stay safe.

tgis81 @ 2/8/2008 6:21 PM

Since I started working in law enforcement, I watched most of my closet change over to slightly oversized button up shirts. In my opinion, they provide the best concealment. My last department allowed us to carry whatever we wanted off duty, in any fashion we wanted. However, my current department supplies an "admin" holster to all officers and has strict policies that say you can only carry your dept issued full size glock, unless you go out and buy the sub-compact model glock of the same caliber (which you must qualify with twice a year on the same course of fire as your duty weapon). But they still require it to be carried in a holster that is attached to a belt and has a retention strap. This is very limiting on concealment methods. Most guys just wear the admin holster with their duty weapon, which almost always shows a buldge on the strong side. But if you don't want to be written up on some BS, that's how you carry it. I do my best to cover it up with my button up shirts, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to utilize different concealment methods and wear something else.

blueangel @ 2/22/2008 8:21 PM

GREAT advice!

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