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History of Police Uniforms

There are a variety of police uniforms and the styles vary depending on the location of the agency. Each branch of law enforcement uses different uniforms. The type of attire for one agency may not be appropriate for another, and the job function for a particular branch may call for certain types of clothing and colors. Each division of law enforcement also determines what equipment to issue with the uniform.

Historians recognize the London Metropolitan Police Department as the first law enforcement entity to issue uniforms to its officers as standard workwear in 1829. In 1853, New York City’s police department became the first agency in the United States to issue uniforms to its officers. Many other jurisdictions in the U.S. and other countries have since made uniforms an important part of their police forces. Most uniforms are dark in color, with matching shirts and pants. There are variations for different conditions, such as bicycle patrol officers wearing shorts in warm weather or officers wearing customized jackets and hats in colder climates. There are even formal hats that are worn on special occasions, such as a funeral or memorial service.

The police badge is the standard identification for officers in the U.S. and around the world. The officer’s name and department can usually be found on his or her badge, and an officer may get an additional badge based on the number of years that he or she has been on the police force. Special awards or recognitions for good work may also come in the form of a “special” badge indicating the achievement.

Law enforcement uniforms are also characterized by accessories that help officers perform their daily tasks. Gloves, boots and holster belts for guns are items that can be found on most patrol officers. Investigators and detectives in different departments may wear professional attire since the majority of their work is done in offices, courtrooms and through interviews with regular citizens where standard police uniforms may be overbearing and intimidating. These officers still carry holsters that hold weapons for protection. Military police also wear uniforms that are specific to particular branches. These personnel are usually identified by arm badges and buttons that indicate rank as well as helmets that have identification on the front.

It is critical that a police officer wear his or her assigned uniform properly in order to be recognizable in case law enforcement services are needed. The main purpose of the police

is to command respect from the public while emphasizing the presence of justice when confronted by potential law breakers.