For police officers, wearing a full polyester suit and toting around 40 pounds of gear while wearing a bullet-protective vest has been a recipe for a miserable day at work in the hot, south Louisiana summer.
Thankfully, Baton Rouge Police Department officers will get some relief soon. The style of uniforms they’ve been wearing for at least 30 years is being replaced.
Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. on Wednesday unveiled a new uniform that will replace the gray shirt and blue pant combination patrol officers have been assigned to wear. The new uniforms are a solid dark blue and made of a much lighter, breathable fabric.
“The polyester is just not real comfortable for an officer to work in,” Dabadie said.
In addition, the old uniforms contain a lot of brass that needs constant upkeep and has items such as a badge and name tag attached by pins. The new uniform will use sewn-on patches.
“This is a more efficient uniform,” he said.
The new uniform also comes at a cost saving. The former gray and blue uniform cost $149 each, while the new daily wear uniform is $72 each. Part of the cost difference is that the gray dye used in the old shirt is a specialty color, which costs more, while the new uniforms are a standard color.
The old gray and blue uniforms will become the department’s dress uniforms, while the new dark blue ones will be for everyday use.
The money for the new uniforms comes from a $110,000 budget supplement from the Metro Council approved last year as well as about $15,000 from the police budget. The money has allowed the department to purchase four uniforms for every uniformed patrol officer — about 1,600 in total.
Detectives and plainclothes police officers will get one new uniform unless there is a need for the officer to have more, Dabadie said.
In the future, the department’s current uniform budget will take over the cost of buying additional uniforms, he said.
“For the last 30 years, we’ve been wearing polyester, and it was time for a change,” Dabadie said. “For an everyday officer working on the street, it isn’t practical.”
Anyone who has ever worn polyester during a south Louisiana summer won’t find that to be a mystery.
“They (police officers) can’t wait to wear them,” Dabadie said.
Patrol officers will start wearing the new uniforms in about a week.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.