Uniforms and equipment – from amateur to professional

Tom Rataj
February 15, 2017
By
Our annual Supply & Services Guide is always a good starting point to shop for uniforms, equipment and supplies.

It wasn’t always this easy though, going back just 25 or 30 years there wasn’t much choice and it was hard to find. Back then, most equipment and uniforms were of mediocre quality and design, while today, high quality uniforms and equipment that are manufactured by speciality companies are readily available. They feature advanced designs and use state of the art manufacturing methods and materials, providing all day comfort for officers under many conditions.

When I look back to the 70s and 80’s, I just shake my head at the dismal quality uniforms and equipment that officers had to endure. Much of this was driven by the sheer lack of choice, and probably the old-school mindset of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder regardless of value or quality.

Somewhat inexplicably, during the early days of my policing career, we were issued two pairs of boots, two pairs of pants, and two tunics, along with 6 shirts each year, whether we needed them or not.

In an annual ritual, a couple of grandfatherly tailors came to the station five or six day each year, to measure everyone for new pants and tunics. Despite their apparent experience, they seemed to be surprisingly adept at sending us custom made pants that were always 1-2 inches too short, as if we were expecting a high-water incident. Everything was of mediocre quality, which probably accounted for the need to replace it annually.

New shirts and boots just arrived routinely whether I needed them or not. Bigger ticket items like hats, winter coats, galoshes, and new leathers required paperwork and a minor inquisition as to why one needed replacements. This inquisition also surprisingly often had to be endured for the cheapest item of them all - the lowly clip-on tie.

The standard issue 8” leather boots had only one redeeming factor: they would accept and hold a decent spit-shine. Beyond that they were a disaster, with their smooth leather soles (that had an affinity for water, and no traction on anything other than dry pavement), a flat leather insole that would ensure you became flat-footed if you weren’t already, and a thin leather body that offered no warmth when the temperature dropped.

For the winter we were issued elephantine rubber galoshes that beyond their intended purpose, were also incredibly efficient at stripping almost all the spit-shine off the boots you put into them. Many of my colleagues simply wore running shoes inside the galoshes to overcome this problem and have a degree of comfort. Chasing a bad guy in the leather boots and/or galoshes was a nearly impossible feat.

I wore a standard tunic for my first three years or so, after which we moved to an oddly designed three-quarter length nylon jacket that offered few advantages in terms of comfort, style or functionality.

Working patrol while wearing in a tunic was always a challenge; every time one got out of the patrol car, a complete wardrobe rearrangement was in order – pull the tunic down from the bottom, straighten the belt and cross-strap, and move the cross-draw holster and the handcuff pouch to where they belonged. Off course this was after the forage cap was properly perched on your head so as to avoid the patrol sergeant’s wrath.

Chasing someone while wearing a tunic was always an interesting wardrobe-malfunction waiting-to-happen, since everything bounced around on it as if it was about to fall off. The old 6-shot revolver bounced around inside the simple leather cross-draw holster, which in turn slid and bounced around on the belt, which, along with the cross strap, bounced and wandered around one’s torso, necessitating an awkward running style requiring both hands to steady and control the bouncing gear – not particularly efficient.

Thankfully, over the years, an increasing amount of professionally designed and manufactured equipment has become readily available, all purpose-built for policing. Clothing and equipment committees, representing both management and employees have also factored into the evolution to professional equipment. Comfortable and seasonal footwear and clothing, body-armour, top-notch duty belts, holsters and pistols, expandable batons, pepper-spray, TASERS (hopefully for everyone very soon), palm-sized LED flashlights, winter hats and boots and so much more.

Requisitions for replacement equipment? Well I suspect that still has some challenges. Enjoy the great equipment, and this issue.

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