March 24, 2005 – Virgin Islands police officers may soon sport a new uniform said to be better suited to tropical heat and humidity. On Wednesday, police officers modeled several versions of the new uniform at the Patrick Sweeney Pavilion on St. Croix. The uniforms were debuted in the St. Thomas/St. John district on Tuesday.
Police officers modeled several different styles of uniforms including full dress and patrol wear. The new patrol uniforms include navy blue pants and shirts that were shown with thin double stripes, or one broad stripe down the pant leg, and are cut to accommodate men and women. The shirts, which are a change from the lighter blue currently worn, were shown with or without gold piping around the pocket and epaulettes.
Two styles of dress uniform were shown, one with a stand-up collar and one with lapels worn over a white dress shirt and navy tie. The shirt buttons can be silver or gold, plastic or metal, and can be embossed with the department logo.
Russ Walker and Kurt Schauer, of Florida-based Superior Uniform Group, explained the advantages of the new uniforms. "It is the fabric of choice of the Florida highway patrol," Schauer said.
He said the percentage of wool in the fabric allows moisture to come away from the skin, and air to flow through the fabric. The uniforms are machine washable with a minimum fade rate. The uniforms are 75 percent polyester and 25 percent wool.
Also shown was a new reversible waterproof jacket, navy blue on one side, and high visibility reflective fabric on the other. The jacket is specially made snap to around an officer's weapon and walkie-talkie so the equipment is accessible at all times.
"The jackets have the highest ANSI rating, they have the highest level of reflection" Schauer said. ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, coordinates voluntary standardization in the U.S. Schauer said the jackets are comfortable to wear. "The have a waterproof, breathable membrane that allows steam to escape" which keeps the wearer cool, he said.
Novelle Francis, Territorial police chief said the new uniforms were part of the five-year police strategic plan to "improve the image" of the department. Francis said the department has been using its present style of uniform for twenty years. Those uniforms are made of polyester and are not as cool on the wearer.
Some officers have been trying out the new uniforms in the field and like the new look, saying the updated uniforms are cooler and more comfortable.
Francis said the union and the members have to agree on the style of uniform. He said the department will seek funding to cover the approximate $1.2 million it will cost to outfit the police on all three islands. "There is start-up money and we are going to pursue additional funding sources," Francis said. "This change will transcend into better morale and pride for the police department."
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