A consistent theme over the last few years within community policing and other areas within law enforcement has been how intimidating and “scary” the police uniform is.
I heard this just the other day when I was speaking to a police officer that works in the school.
“We don’t wear the uniform,” as she detailed how it helps to break down barriers with kids that are scared of police and in particular the uniform.
It wasn’t the first time I heard it and I admit that the appearance of the uniform does create certain dynamics but are we really solving the problems of bias and distrust by taking the uniform off?
It almost seems like a “bait and switch” idea and while I understand this idea may make the initial conversation with someone a little easier, are we not missing the point all together?
If the mere sight of a police uniform puts legitimate fear in someone, can we not get rid of that fear by being professional and respectful while in uniform?
Should we not show the citizen the exact opposite (professionalism) as to what they expect to come out of that uniform?
Our police uniform is what we are and it signals what we do. No one would dare ask a doctor to take their uniform off even though the idea of white coat syndrome is real.
I understand that there are some in the community that have an extreme fear and in some cases an extreme bias against law enforcement. Do we hide from that by using the “feel good” optics of plain clothes or do we embrace that by wearing our uniform and presenting ourselves in a way that changes that bias and fear?
I’ll take the uniform any day and will make it my mission to change those negative perceptions. Will you join me?
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