A new uniform policy will soon go into effect for Phoenix police officers, and not everyone is happy about it.
An employee communication was sent out on Monday afternoon announcing the change. The move comes from new Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia and his command staff.
Starting Oct. 1, officers will no longer be authorized to wear the Class D uniform. The Class D uniform consists of the black cargo-type pants and pullover shirts with the embroidered badges and name tags.
Officers will be required to wear the Class C uniforms, the more traditional style dress pants and buttoned shirts with the metal badges and pin on brass name tags.
Garcia said several factors contributed to the new policy, but the most important is officer safety. Garcia is concerned that there has been a recent rash of home invasion and robbery suspects impersonating police officers by wearing the dressed-down T-shirts that say "police" on them. He believes if all first responders wear the same uniform this will cut down on confusion among citizens.
Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump said for Garcia it's also an image thing.
"It is his thought that the uniformity is creating a stronger team. It is helping to brand the Phoenix Police Department," Crump said.
Garcia believes the Class C uniforms will add an air of professionalism and pride to the department.
The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, PLEA, the union which represents the bulk of Phoenix officers, is not happy about the uniform policy change.
PLEA representative Ken Crane said he was extremely disappointed PLEA was not even asked to take part in discussions surrounding the new policy.
"We do not get complaints from the public about our appearance, about our uniforms. In fact, quite the opposite," Crane said. "We have officers tell us that they feel that it makes citizens more easily approach them. It (Class D) is a softer looking uniform."
Crane and the union are also concerned about the fact that the Class D uniforms are cooler and can accommodate police equipment in a way that takes a lot of weight off officers' gun belts, which Crane said helps lessen long-term debilitating medical injuries.
"When you have an entire uniform system that officers have spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars on to outfit themselves with, and you say, OK in two, 2 1/2 months, no more, that's huge. That's huge! We're very disappointed," Crane said.
Crump said there will be some exceptions to the new policy for certain specialized details, but for the most part the Class C uniform will be worn. He also pointed out that some officers on their own have been returning to more dress attire for image reasons.
"As we have had turmoil in the past couple of years and have had a lot of negative attention in the last couple of years, we have had people that have gone back to it on their own as a symbol of teamwork and uniformity and professionalism," Crump said.
Crump said having the switch take place in October, when the temperatures are cooler, will give Garcia an opportunity to look at options for summertime.
Union leaders said several officers threatened to file grievances regarding the new policy. And PLEA vows to continue to voice its opposition to the chief.
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