Bridgeport, CT – The Bridgeport police chief has forbidden the city’s police officers from wearing uniforms with the word “POLICE” written on their clothing.
Police Chief Armando “A.J.” Perez sent out a memorandum to his department on Nov. 13 forbidding the Bridgeport cops from advertising their profession on their clothing, according to the Connecticut Post.
“Members of Service [officers] are reminded that any wearing of ‘POLICE’ on department uniforms other than road job outerwear is prohibited. Supervisors will be held accountable for failing to enforce and abide by this directive,” Chief Perez wrote in the memo.
Bridgeport Police Sergeant Chris Robinson fired back an email to the chief that quickly circulated around the entire police department, and was shared with the Post. He has since been suspended.
“This order compromises everyone’s safety!!!!” Sgt. Robinson said in his email. “It is an order that can get an officer hurt or killed!”
Sgt. Robinson offered four scenarios where officers could benefit from clothing with reflective letters, all occurring at night: Working at the scene of a motor vehicle accident; chasing a suspect; responding to a burglary; and trying to break up a street fight, according to the Post.
Police officers weren’t the only ones upset about the chief’s memorandum.
“It does make me worry about his leadership,” City Councilman-elect Marcus Brown told the Post. “The police are there to protect and serve. People need to be able to ID who police officers are when outside of the vehicle. If they want to remove ‘POLICE’ from the jackets, what’s next? From police cars? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Former SWAT-team commander for the DC Metro Transit Police, Captain William Malone, called the chief’s instructions not to put “POLICE” boldly on uniforms “irresponsible.”
“The most tragic line of duty death is to have an officer shot by another cop who mistakes you for a suspect holding a gun,” Capt. Malone said. “It’s not on the back of their jackets to tell citizens. It’s there to identify them to other cops when there’s no time to introduce yourself.”
On Monday, Chief Perez told Hearst that putting “POLICE” on uniforms is not authorized in current policy, which is established by the chief, the city’s law department, and the police commission.
“Uniformity and discipline are necessary for the efficient operation of a police organization,” Chief Perez said in a statement. “We are an organization of rules and laws and the rules must be adhered to. A uniform professional appearance is the image this organization wishes to convey.”
The chief noted that officers are “readily identifiable” by their uniforms, badges, name tags, hats, and police patches, the Post reported.
Chief Perez said that he hadn’t suspended Sgt. Robinson for “raising concerns,” but rather for ignoring proper protocol to voice them.
The president of the police union, Sergeant Chuck Paris, said his organization will research whether the Bridgeport Police’s uniform policy needs to be changed.
In Bridgeport, cops are paid an annual uniform allowance but responsible for selecting and purchasing the clothing.
Sgt. Paris said some officers opted to have “POLICE” printed on some of their clothing, in reflective material.
“Not figuring it would be an issue. ... They feel safer with that on their jackets,” he said.
Sgt. Robinson said having “POLICE” on a jacket or other outerwear would ensure that the wearer is recognized by fellow officers and the public.
In his email, he also pointed out that having “POLICE” on clothing could make a difference in court cases.
“I myself have been drilled on the stand before in trials that that they repeatedly asked me, ‘Well, is it possible that maybe they didn’t know you were a police officer’?” Sgt. Robinson said in his email to the chief.
Sgt. Paris said the police union hopes to intervene on Sgt. Robinson’s behalf.
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