If someone has ever wondered why a majority of police officers wear blue uniforms, the answer is not only practical, it’s also deadly serious.
As pointed out by Today I Found Out, there are a few reasons why police have predominantly chosen to wear blue uniforms.
The original reason police began wearing dark blue uniforms was actually quite simple. The first formally established police department in the U.S., the New York City Police Department in 1845, based its uniforms on the London police force, which wore blue uniforms to distinguish itself from the British military’s red, according to an article published by the law enforcement-oriented website PoliceOne.com.
In later decades, other cities established their police forces after the Civil War and their uniforms were simply surplus uniforms from the Union army. The Los Angeles Police Department, formed in 1869, was one such outfit.
More than 150 years after the Civil War, though, dark blue is still appealing for several reasons. For one, it is one of the easiest colors to clean and maintain, rather than lighter colored uniforms.
For professional purposes, dark blue uniforms better conceal stains that could get on a uniform while officers are on duty — and physically engaging in activities that can be tough on clothing, from standing in the rain to fighting with a criminal.
In terms of safety, officers have primarily continued to wear darker uniforms because it makes them harder to see at night.
When officers are patrolling at night or looking for suspects, they want to remain inconspicuous, and not easily noticeable to those they are watching or trying to capture.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore County police officers who worked on the graveyard shift stopped wearing white uniform shirts in 1996 because the light color made them feel vulnerable to being spotted by criminals.
“The officers feel safer with the dark shirts on at night,” Sgt. Joseph E. Burris, who worked in the Technical Support Services Division, told the newspaper. “They have been asking for this for years. It’s the perception, and the perception is as important as reality.”
While police in various states may not wear navy blue uniforms, the basic idea behind why many police departments have stuck with darker colors remains clear — they are easier to maintain and act as a natural camouflage in times of danger. That dark blue could literally save a life some night.
Law enforcement officers have dangerous jobs, and anything that can be used to help them capture bad guys and keep communities safer is a good idea.
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