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Phoenix Officers Protest Order to Wear Polyester Uniforms

September 24, 2012  | 

Phoenix Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia has ordered that beginning Oct. 1, the department's 2,500 patrol officers must wear only their polyester-blend uniforms with dark-blue button-down shirts and dress-style pants. The black, cotton-blend polo shirt and tactical pants that patrol officers have had the option of wearing for the past 15 years will no longer be allowed.

Garcia, whose order comes after five months on the job, has said the use of two patrol uniforms has the potential to create confusion and offers greater opportunity for criminals to impersonate officers. He cited a growing number of home-invasion robberies and fake traffic stops carried out by criminals wearing versions of the less-formal patrol uniform.

Ken Crane, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association vice president and grievance chairman, said the blue uniforms are more suited to office work or special events, like parades, funerals or awards ceremonies. Crane estimates that three-fourths of the officers on patrol duty either exclusively wear the black uniform or switch between the two. "If you are working in 110- and 115-degree heat, do you want to work in a uniform that is more suited for a utilitarian application or work the streets in what essentially amounts to dress clothes?" he said.

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Comments (45)

Displaying 1 - 45 of 45

Bob@Az. @ 9/24/2012 11:59 AM

Gee, here I thought we had an intelligent top cop in Phoenix. Two uniforms creat confusion? To whom? The chief? Thugs are going to impersonate cops by simply getting a badge from the many online sites out there and usually don't get the whole uniform. But then again if garcia knew anything about working the streets he'd know that. Piss-poor leadership. Blues, stay safe.

C.T. Carlson @ 9/24/2012 3:45 PM

This seems a bit drastic. If you want uniformity, offer the officers a polo and tactical pants option that mirrors the normal uniform colors. This is not rocket science, however, it is amazing how many departments have several different color uniforms. (yes, i realize there is a place for different colors like swat)

JD @ 9/24/2012 4:16 PM

I live in Phoenix and the temps are very high and from what the chief has said about the uniforms the temps just got hotter and I'm not talking about the the weather temps either....

H.Finch @ 9/24/2012 4:27 PM

If the goal is to keep officers in the A/C comfort of their patrol units I believe this is a good idea.

Jason @ 9/24/2012 4:34 PM

Ok, well I am a career military man and I have served five years active LEO as a Deputy Sheriff. Two things, one is why isn't there a general order governing the wear and appearance of the uniforms so there is no confusion. Second, from a Chiefs perspective, why would I go with a polyester uniform? From a liability stand point, I feel polyester is open for a law suit, why? If a LEO becomes involved in a vehicle crash and his or her vehicle becomes inflamed, wouldn't the polyester melt to that LEO enhancing permanent disfigurement or death? Hmmm, let’s get that into policy!

Dano @ 9/24/2012 4:52 PM

New manager, New rules. Just flexing his muscles as the FNG. Why any department in the Southwest would wear dark colours is beyond me. White, tan, khaki, light blue, gray are far more practical and a LOT cooler. Been there.

Jim MIller @ 9/24/2012 5:20 PM

When I first came into law enforcement we had no choice but to wear the polyester uniforms, then with a new chief we had the option of a cotton tactical uniform. Then with yet another new chief we went back to polyester and suffered horribly again in the Oklahoma heat and humidity. Now we get a summer polo type shirt and cotton pants to wear. Starts in May, ends Sept. So I feel for these guys. As long as your supervisors are insuring their officers are keeping their uniforms looking nice, I see no problem in alternate uniforms.

It's typical of any new chief, or manager of a company who is insecure of their leadership tend to make stupid decision in an effort to show their bosses they are "doing something" to keep the department inline.

Jeremy Young @ 9/24/2012 5:36 PM

Here is another issue I think this will create. In order to compensate for the weather, being that it is hot there, as I lived there and love the weather... Either way, the Officers will relinquish their Vests for the uniforms. So Safety of the Officers will go down. I am not advocating any Officer to do that by any means. If I still lived in Phoenix area, and became an Officer like I wanted to in the Phoenix Area, I would certainly wear my vest at any cost, but others do not feel as I do.

Jason Barnes @ 9/24/2012 6:08 PM

What an imbecile! Does he want to cause heat casualties? Or force the officers to do without their vests? What incredible bad judgment. And how arrogant to issue such an order without talking to the officers and their reps first.

Bernard Wilson @ 9/24/2012 6:27 PM

Interesting bias in the reporting. The polo shirts are referred to as "cotton blend." The button shirts are referred to as "polyester blend." Which begs the question - what is the other part of the "blend?" Are they actually BOTH made of cotton and polyester? Is the button shirt wool and polyester? Either way, it looks like polyester is in the mix, which brings this down to a style/fashion "corporate branding" issue. And that is definitely something that the Chief controls.

However...I can't buy the "confusion" issue. Go on any Army post and start counting uniforms. Blue, green, camo, white, with jackets, coats, sweaters...everybody knows who everybody is.

There are good tactical type uniforms out there that blur the line between dress and utility. This is a solve able and ultimately trivial problem that needs nothing more than creativity and open-minds.

Blaine @ 9/24/2012 6:33 PM

Police shouldn't wear military-style "tactical" uniforms. Such uniforms are a part of the extremely dangerous trend toward militarization of police and sheriff's departments. This militarization further divides officers from, and breeds distrust among, the citizens officers claim serve.

Doc @ 9/24/2012 7:13 PM

I was at a chemical spill wearing knit poly and just like how a cold wind blows right through the uniform, so does any chemical and I got burned except for areas covered by my underwear. I have also been burn in a fire and poly melt and sticks. This chief is an A$$ for that move. A woven blend is better & safer than knit poly and feels better too,, and you can have the same look if you want it. It sucks working in a dress uniform and it's not safe, but this guy does Not care about his people.

Doc @ 9/24/2012 7:28 PM

Tactical uniforms are not the issue here, but I have worn different uniforms and the real issue is how you treat the public, not what you wear or weapons that you carry. People judge you by how you treat them. On this issue of "Blends" the biggest issue is "Woven" vs "Knit" and a woven blend with enough cotton to keep any poly in the blend from melting and having pants & shirts that you can move in. An external vest carrier is a better deal too, as they can be made of the same fabric. This issue is Humane working conditions, but some people don't care, especially if they don't have to wear it or if they work in an office with A/C. Officer safety does not matter to people like that, and officers will leave a department for better working conditions, I've seen it happen for many years.

Phil B @ 9/24/2012 8:12 PM

Talk about "fixing something that aint broke". Police uniforms have evolved into clothing that is both identifyable as law enforcement and utilitarian- and thank God for that. If the Police Dept managers want the more formal look of the hot, uncomfortable traditional uniforms, they can wear those in the air conditioned offices. Better yet,wear it out in the world of the beat Officer fixing a flat, maintaining a perimeter, investigating an accident or directing traffic around one, in the miserable heat of a Phoenix summertime. Talk about a way to ailienate youself from your troops- bad move.

getum @ 9/24/2012 8:38 PM

Blaine, you are an idiot a s s taht has no clue in what you posted. Moron.

Bob@Az. @ 9/24/2012 9:23 PM

Now now "getum', don't yell at blaine just because he's an idiot and obviously not a LEO. Maybe if we all started wearing "nicer" uniforms people would like us. Like even light grey with pink piping or my favorite, pale green with patches of verde green in a nice free-style design. Oh yeah, used to wear something like that and some people still didn't like me. Go figure. Blues, Stay safe & keep a sense of humor.

Bill @ 9/24/2012 10:34 PM

This is a grave mistake to make police appear tactical/military style. The more and more citizens see a soldier, rather than a traditional uniform further deteriorates the public trust.
It's become awful to see leg holsters and thug looking cops looking like they're from a war zone in Iraq.

We started with cotton uniforms and knee high boots, this is what we should be looking like, not a swat cop on every call.

Doc @ 9/24/2012 11:52 PM

Bill, The military has several different uniforms, but hey are not running around in the desert in a dress uniform on patrol.
It's like I said before, I have worn different types of uniforms, including being well armed, the people in any community judge an officer by how the officer treats them, not by the kind of uniform. I am changing the uniforms for a department right now, going to the 511 Lite TDU. This uniform has a more traditional look, but with a woven light weight cotton blend, that does not look "baggy" but is very comfortable and you can move in them. These could be used as a tactical uniform, but they appear "Traditional" and most of the public does not notice any difference. Knee high boots are out, patrol boots are in and the external carrier for the vest protects the officer with a higher comfort level and they wear the body armor. The rest of the duty belt is worn in a more traditional manner, without leg holsters. Only a Fool wants to work in a dress uniform on the street, I have scars from being burned in a knit poly uniform. I used to be miserable at work, even having to wear knit poly long sleeves and tie, when it was Hot as hell. I decided that if I ever was in charge of a dept that knit poly would be Gone, and that's what I did. The vest carrier is made out of the same 511 type woven fabric, all items on the uniform shirt under it are Patches, no collar brass, only full color patches. This is a Modern uniform, so check out the 511 TDU if you want to see it. After Katrina and a few other storms, we worked with lots of military troops, and even with patrol rifles people could tell us apart from the military people working with us. Our uniforms are Blue in color, with full color patches, but when people need help, I don't think they really care what we look like. I wear the same uniform, as I lead by example, and that means being as nice to people as they will allow us to be.

morg4163 @ 9/25/2012 12:24 AM

My polyester pants looked really sharp, until I had to deploy flares. One of the flares "popped", causing hot spittle to go everywhere completely destroying the pants, melting right through them and giving me some nice burns. Now I stick with the 511 TDUs, they're more flare friendly.

Nichole @ 9/25/2012 4:03 AM

Or how about making the more comfortable uniform the mandatory one and reserve the other uniform for funerals, parades, etc?

That makes more sense. Polyester is flammable too. Watch your asses.

Buster @ 9/25/2012 5:32 AM

It has been my experience that even a 10% poly/cotton blend shirt feels noticebly warmer when worn than a 100% cotton shirt. For me the material is more of an issue in this case. I can't imagine directing traffic, for example, on a hot summer day in Arizona while wearing a formal 100% polyester uniform. Can anyone say, "HEAT STROKE"?

Mike @ 9/25/2012 6:00 AM

I Usually just read this stuff and go on but after reading page after page of bellyaching I had to wade in. You need to look professional, first impressions are everything. If I'm confronted by an officer in a class A uniform and one in rent a cop uniform, which one gets my respect? I've worked the street for years; hot, cold, rain, whatever..ran, chased, fought, whatever had to be done, in a dress uniform. Man up.

Chief Bell @ 9/25/2012 6:35 AM

Wearing a vest under a polyester uniform makes the officers uncomfortable, so the safety and comfort should take precident for the officer in the street. A wicking shirt with 511 TDU's makes an excellent uniform and a more comfortable productive officer. Go into the heat and out of the office and see for yourself.

drob @ 9/25/2012 6:39 AM

I think most of you whiners are choosing to miss the point... if the new chief had said they were going to a wool/poly/cotton blend, you'd still be bitching, because it isn't the fabric that has you up in arms; it's the fact that you're going to be wearing a UNIFORM, instead of the 'golf shirt' and "cool looking" tactical pants that 5.11, VertX, etc. is selling. I'm sure there is room for compromise with material, but I think you Gen Y'ers just don't like being in a traditional police uniform. Side pockets, outer vest covers, and boots are all good upgrades, making the traditional police uniform more utilitarian, yet still retaining the basics of a police uniform. Leave the golf shirts for the links, and the tactical pants for your range and DT instructors. But I'd agree that warmer climes and lighter colors go hand in hand.

Me. @ 9/25/2012 6:44 AM

Mike, you'll get flamed, but I agree with you... up to a point. The old style uniform does get the immediate recognition and respect. But cops today don't want to follow orders in the new generation of "Why? Why? Why?" Now the other side of the coin... polyester does have it's dangers, especially in high temp areas and fire situations. So now what? Instead of bellyaching (which we're all good at, but accomplishes nothing), "man-up" and offer the Chief an alternate uniform that's not made from polyester that looks more professional than the "dress down Friday" polo shirt.

DE @ 9/25/2012 6:47 AM

Here is the truth:

When our chief switched us to real uniforms away from the polos and bdu pants we all complained - a lot. But since then we have received more and more compliments from the public and from other LE agencies about how professional we are now. It makes a real difference in how the public percieves us. Would we want the military wearing polo shirts? I think not.

The honest truth is that we were spoiled and put our own comfort ahead of all other concerns. This job is about service and that often means putting yourself last. We used all the same old excuses about heat and fire and comfort, but now we are all used to the real uniforms and have no problems.

Phoenix PD will benefit greatly from the more professional appearance; and guess what - the officers will begin to behave more professionally, and feel more pride in their jobs. I have seen this with my own eyes.

Let's man up get the job done! Good work, Chief Garcia.

drob @ 9/25/2012 6:50 AM

Thanks DE and Me. You said what I tried to, only better. I was proud of my Navy service uniform, and still proud of my police uniform.

Mike B @ 9/25/2012 6:53 AM

White, tan, khaki, light blue, gray are also great TARGETS... stick with the cotton BDU'S

steve @ 9/25/2012 7:10 AM

was taught this a LONG time ago by our union business agent....'chiefs are chiefs no matter what'. it is purely a control issue, shame on that chief for letting ego get in the way of a smooth running patrol force. and unfortunately, there is little ground for the union to stand on....

bpd3733 @ 9/25/2012 7:31 AM

I have to agree with "Mike", "me", & "DE". We are police officers. We should stop complaining about such a nothing issue. Just be thankful you don't have something really foolish like the new Taser rule that Cincinnati just put in place.

Jason @ 9/25/2012 8:20 AM

Maybe a lighter colored more traditional uniform is in order. There are uniform companies who use materials that wick moisture away from the body. Personally, I am in favor of a more traditional style uniform. The TDU pants and polo shirt are less professional, and should be reserved for training. A sharp uniform is more likely to command respect, and is looked upon more favorably by the general public.

Just my 2 cents worth

Chief Dave @ 9/25/2012 9:53 AM

Been doing this for 40 years. Remember the same issues with baseball caps and switching away from wheel guns. You command respect by how you respect those you deal with. Some people just hate cops and it makes no difference what you're wearing. Being comfortable while on duty will produce better results all the way around.

S.S @ 9/25/2012 9:58 AM

Just another man that wants to leave his mark on a Police department, that doesn't need it. This is just plain stupid. There's better things to use that money for on this police dept. Uniforms they already have, and by the looks of it they don't need to change. Get off your high horse and use some common sense.

Robocop @ 9/25/2012 10:38 AM

Fantastic! Police Officers should look like Police Officers and not a mechanic. I can understand and support the tactical uniform when you are on a special assignment where it is called for but otherwise, look like a true poster-boy professional Police Officer. Much of the respect people have for the Police is based on your appearance

Old Head Sgt. @ 9/25/2012 1:28 PM

I worked for Chief Click when he came to the DPD from Phoenix and I have worked for Chief Garcia. Both men made changes, some the guys liked and some they didn't, but I never saw them make a change without thinking of their men first. Been a police 40 years and I learned early that cops don't like changes and you can't make everybody happy. Chief Garcia was the first Deputy Chief to support patrol rifles in Dallas and that was after listening to the troops. He went to bat for us. Give him a chance, like we gave Chief Click and I believe you will be better for it in the end. Fraternally, Old Head Sgt.

Dan @ 9/25/2012 5:33 PM

I work work in Southern CA. During these summer months, they temperature has been 100+ on a regular basis. I am sure it does not compare to Phoenix, but for our guys in Barstow, Colorado River, Needles, 29 Palms, Victorville, I feel for them. Our department policy states all patrol uniforms shall be a poly/wool blend, or all wool. No cotton material allowed on patrol. We are the only agency in San Bernardino Co. that does not wear the polo shirt/bdu pants. Almost all other agencies were a class A shirt and BDU pants, or a cotton polo with BDU pants. And most have then gone to the outer vest where 90% of the Sam Brown gear is on the uniform shirt vest, instead of on the belt, reducing back injuries and problems. I would not mind wearing the Class A shirt, but I wish we could wear the BDU pants. I carry so many things in shirt pockets it is crazy!! (My cell phone, my notepad, my cheat sheet cards, Miranda Card, pocket stencil) My Class A uniform that is supposed to look professional, looks ridiculous because the pockets will not stay closed. Not to mention, I am a vest always guy, so it gets real uncomfortable. Our department has said we need to uphold tradition and present a professional appearance to the public. Appearance is about demeanor and attitude. I think the Chief puffed up his chest on this one. Unless his decision was based on a survey from the citizen's he works for, there was no need for him to change the uniform without input from the line workers first. Uncomfortable, means, miserable, means grouchy, means bad attitude. And that is my two cents

Lorne @ 9/25/2012 9:05 PM

Just like some of these comments, professionalism is part of the equation. The Chief clearly said he was the boss when he gave the directive. There is a rayon-cotton blend class uniform. The argument over these uniforms is silly, PPD has always worn blue, the vest makes you hot whether polo or button-up. There are other issues abound with professionalism being key. Officers are given money every year, yet their uniforms look 2-3 years old. Professionalism and recognition of your presence as a police officer is extremely critical in the community.

J. R. Pool @ 9/25/2012 9:16 PM

I am retired Dallas PD and worked around and for Danny Garcia. He did not spend much time in patrol while working for Dallas and was skip-promoted from Sgt. to Deputy Chief (Another Dallas failed attempt at AA) after working as liason with city hall glad-handing the civilian big wigs. Watch yourselves, Phoenix officers. He's all about my way or the highway and will throw you under the bus if you personally cross him. I also worked under Chief Ben Click during his tenure in Dallas. He is a good man and always made time for and stopped and chatted with his troops. You would have been lucky to have gotten him as your chief.

Ima Leprechaun @ 9/26/2012 2:22 AM

There have been several excellent points already made not the least of which is polyester is highly flammable and when it burns, it melts and sticks to skin just like napalm. The lable on polyester uniform shirts warns of the severe fire hazzard of polyester. Also polyester does not breathe which means it holds all sweat inside against the body of the wearer. These poor officers will have to contend with severe skin rashes, boils and staph infections caused by their own uniforms. I have never heard of a police department practicing to intentionally harm its own officers in such an egregious manor. It is obvious this order came from someone with little to no street experience while having to wear a poorly designed uniform. Polyester is the worst choice for Police or Security work. Officers need a uniform that can breathe like cotton blends. I am hopeful that there will be many law suits filed over this stupid uniform rule on the grounds of causing life endangering heatlh issues to the officers through intentional malfeasence of duty by the Chief of Police. The FOP should prove helpful in providing a legal basis for fighting this poor decision and help these Officers. With so many real threats to Officers in the field the criminals do not need extra help from the Chief of Police. I hope the officers have enough sick time to recover from all the health issues caused by polyester uniforms because one good hot day and many will be out sick with the eurption of severe skin diseases caused by their own uniforms. I feel bad for officers with hairy bodies because they will be the first to be affected by their own uniform's inability to breathe and remove body sweat and heat from against their skin. Just when you think Police work is growing and becoming Professional someone like this comes into a position of power and turns the tables back 50 years.

Jeff Beach @ 9/26/2012 7:22 AM

Being a Chief myself, I want my guys to be as comfortable as they can be. I have worn both the class A and the tactical uniform, and I am much more comfortable in my tac pants and shirt. If your guys are happy, and comfortable, your guys will work harder for longer. Working 10, 12, 14, 16 hours in class A... its almost inhumane.

Cam @ 9/27/2012 12:06 AM

Oh boy. We wore a formal shirt with all the metal that made tons of noise esp night shift. Our pants had a small side pocket...and they were NOT polyester. I retired in 2005, so I am sure the product is out there. If we can get it in Montana, why is it Phoenix cannot find them. I so feel for these officers, we had to wear them when I was with the Sheriff's Department. Boiling hot in summer, and freezing cold in winter no matter what you wore underneath. I hope the Chief and all the other brass are out on the streets with this nice new uniform for 8-10 hours a day? They are going to make their officers so hot they are going to get ill. The vest I had, made me sweat in winter and summer. Oh, by the way, I had three officer impersonations in one month, and no one had a uniform on. Good luck to all the Phoenix officers, stay hydrated and I will pray for some common sense to hit the brass on the noggin!

Trigger @ 9/27/2012 10:16 AM

Some of the behind information that I have received in talking to some of the Phoenix officers is the lack of supervisor involvement. Many officers were wearing uniforms (polo shirts and tactical pants) that were faded and in poor conditions and they were not "reminded" to get them replaced. To me these are not "patrol" uniforms but "special event" uniforms. There is nothing wrong with looking sharp and professional, this is what the citizens expect. My hat off to Chief Garcia for stepping up to the plate and bringing back a professional look to a great police agency. Not everyone will like "change" but that is part of life. I have worn a poly/wool blend uniform with a break-away tie for over 30 years while working the street (in some extreme situations and weather conditions) and I the uniform was not a problem. Time to suck it up and stop whining.

Thor @ 9/29/2012 1:13 PM

My first 2 cities had paramilitary uni's. 3rd wore blazers. In summer the blazers were off (dark blue) and dress shirts (light blue) were the norm.
We surveyed the citizens once a year. They loved the blazers. Most LEO's came laterally from other depts and liked uniforms. So...many dollars later we changed to the "old" style. By that time I was a detective and worked in suits, sportcoats,wore ties, etc and didn't care.

A memory book issued after my retirement had one guy's negative opinion and they forgot the taxpayers loved the blazers! You still do the job. Heck, in the Army I could wear class A kacki shorts in Japan!

Doc @ 10/1/2012 7:09 PM

I can see that some people want to see everyone wear an unsafe knit poly uniform, and most of those have Not been burned yet, so I have to wonder if they really work for a living.
There is nothing wrong with a better safer fabric that still has a more traditional look. In my opinion, anyone that thinks we all belong in knit poly or knit rayon with ties is not fit for a command position. Officer safety should always come first and anyone that would compromise that needs to get sued by an injured officer. I don't wear polo shirts, and my uniform looks just as good and the same color as the old knit poly, but they are much safer and comfortable. The only place for a dress uniform is a funeral.
There are some people that will look like a POS even in a knit poly long sleeve with tie, expensive dress uniform and we have all seen that. I have also seen officers that no matter what they wore, the public would avoid them because of how they treated the people of the community. The chief in this article should consider fabric options that are safer, because he can still get the same look he wants with a better fabric and that's what really counts. I have seen people die in many different ways on duty, including being burned to death, so our uniforms need to be made out of a safe fabric and we have that where I work. We all look good and are safe and comfortable, and we have the full support of the public.

teresa smith @ 2/11/2014 4:55 PM

I think the officers should feel comfortable while working a difficult job. Also, Polyester melts when it burns, and emits toxins when heated...

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