PERRY -- When two Perry police officers were selected to field test a new uniform for the department, they did their best to destroy it.
“We were trying to tear ‘em up,” Cpl. Armando Sanchez said. “I was doing things in that uniform that I’d never do in the previous uniform we had, because I knew it would tear it up.”
Sanchez gave an example of helping Twiggs County deputies search a vehicle during a road check.
“Nobody wanted to go underneath the vehicle,” Sanchez recalled. “I said ‘I’ll do it. I’ve got my test uniform on.’ (I) crawled underneath it on asphalt (and) didn’t even get a burn in the uniform. And I was purposely using my back to crawl underneath the car. And it still didn’t tear up the uniform.”
He and Sgt. Jalon Heard also washed the uniforms every night. By the time the four-month testing period was done, the uniforms were washed twice as often as normal.
“I was more eager to do things in it to really test it out, because I didn’t want to give my approval on a uniform and then find out down the road that it would tear up easy or whatever,” Heard said.
The dark navy blue uniforms passed with flying colors. Perry police have been sporting the new look for about a month.
But a lot more went into the selection process than the field test.
Police Chief Steve Lynn first tasked a committee of officers to look at the possibility of a new uniform. The officers looked at a variety of factors including cost, durability, comfort, functional ability and the image the uniform conveyed, Lynn said.
In the process, the officers chose a uniform that has a traditional, professional look but blends tactical uniform features such as additional pockets in both the shirt and pants.
“We weren’t going for a certain look,” Lynn said. “I had no preconceived notion about what color, what style, what material, anything. I just gave them a mandate and they took it and ran with it,” Lynn said.
What’s in a uniform?
Sanchez noted that a primary goal was to not look tactical when choosing the more functional uniform.
“We wanted to look more traditional, because our job as road police is to mainly answer calls,” he said. “We’re the face of the department.
“We didn’t want to come out there looking like we were there to serve a search warrant. We still wanted to look like we could go to court ... without having to worry about having two sets of uniforms to swap out,” he said.
Extra pockets in the shirts make it easier to carry things like notebooks, pens, statutory guidelines, a DUI checklist and handcuff keys, Sanchez said. The pants have cargo pockets that can hold more.
The color changed from light blue shirts with dark blue pants with a stripe on the side. The official color of the new uniforms, which are rain repellent, is “LAPD navy.”
“Just the look of it,” said Cpl. Craig Fowler, who doesn’t miss the old uniform that was reminiscent of the U.S. Postal Service. “Most people think of us ... they call us the postman. We looked like the postman coming down the street.”
Now, all 35 sworn officers have the same uniform, including command staff, he said.
The hardest part of selecting the new uniform was “trying to appease 35 people,” said Lt. James Buck.
Sanchez added, “Some of the guys, they were just steadfast in the classic look until we finally got one that we could use and show, which was our field test, and we changed the minds of a lot of the officers.
“Of course, you’re still going to have a few who are going to have their opinion on which they want the most,” he said. “But I think as far as this uniform, this the best that we could find that appeased the most people.”
The cost for a uniform set is about $75 for one short-sleeve shirt, one long-sleeve shirt, pants and patches, Buck said. He said about 200 sets were ordered.
The uniforms cost less than the old ones, and the cost of the new uniforms was taken from funds previously set aside for replacing existing uniforms, Lynn said.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.