Det/Cst Karen Harling didn't have to join another police service to get a new uniform.
On the same day she was presented with her 15 year service medal, Harling traded in her powder blue dress uniform for a brand new custom-fitted royal blue version – one she began creating six months before as chair of the Truro Police Department dress uniform committee.
There were a few reasons to update the official threads, says Truro police chief Dave MacNeil. "We've had it since the mid-1980s. It's powder blue and a bit dated." He adds, laughing, "A lot of the newer officers weren't too keen on it."
The cloth was also becoming increasingly difficult to source, he adds. The challenge was to create a new dress uniform with a fresh and current look, while maintaining the distinctive feeling of their traditional outfit.
MacNeil says the first step was to research different supplier options. The committee eventually decided to go with a tailor in Fredericton which does not mass-produce uniforms. During the design process the tailor actually opened a new location in Halifax.
Harling says it was eye-opening to see how much detail goes into one uniform. "There are about 20 different elements and they're all customizable," she says. "It's a lot of decisions."
The new uniform includes a royal blue, high-necked tunic. The colour matches the blue stripe on the pants. Harling says the tailor had to do a custom dye job to get this colour – and that's not the only thing that's custom.
The entire uniform was customized for the department. MacNeil says nothing was recycled from the old one; everything is new right down to the badge, belt, buttons and cap. However, for the sake of tradition, the new uniform incorporates a black cross strap, an element that dates back to the 1970s.
Harling's favourite part is the cap, which is a little non-traditional for a Canadian department. "We went outside the box with the caps and chose a full black eight- point cap," she says. "It's a style that's more common in the US."
The hat also includes a custom cap badge. "We wanted to do something different; something the Truro department could be known for."
Another change is how the new outfit is fitted to each officer. The previous dress uniform was off the rack, with one fitting. The new uniform is not only custom-designed but involves three fittings. Chief MacNeil says that make a big difference. "You can feel that they're comfortable," he says, "and it looks more polished."
Both the public and nearby police departments have been positive about the new look. Truro police officers had a chance to participate in the design decisions, even voting on some of the elements, so the new uniform reflects the ideas of the entire department.
"We're pretty pumped about the uniform," MacNeil says, and the first officers to wear it agree. After all her work on the project, Harling is happy with the results. At her medal ceremony many officers complimented her on the new look. "I'm so excited and I'm just really pleased," she says.
MacNeil admits some officers miss their traditional powder blue but hopes they'll come around to the change. "I say it's a big change but we still stayed blue."