Los Angeles County, CA - Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell has decided to spend a significant amount of taxpayer money to keep his deputies safer. However, he's not doing it with upgraded body armor, backup guns, or tourniquets. He's not even outfitting his entire department with Tasers. Instead, $300,000 is going towards replacing the deputies' silver belt buckles with brass in order to "keep deputies safer."
LA Times reports that the Sheriff said that the belt buckles would help "finish off the uniform," and convey to suspects that the deputy is in control.
“The first impression somebody gets of one of our deputies in the field is what they look like when they approach. Are they squared-away looking? Do they have their gear in place? Are they physically fit?” Sheriff McDonnell said.
“Often our deputies are in situations where they’re all by themselves, and they need to exude command presence,” Sheriff McDonnell explained.
Yeah, it's BS, but there's no way to know if the Sheriff is drinking his own Kool-Aid. It's likely that the color was just a pet-peeve of his that he decided to fix. But it's just as likely that he believes what he's saying.
One of the biggest signs of an out-of-touch supervisor is one who focuses more heavily on appearance than practicality. Such supervisors aren't too rare in law enforcement. Horror stories are told of supervisors who arrive at the scene where a suspect was attacking an officer, but rather than check on the officer, the supervisor criticizes the officer for not wearing their hat.
This extreme focus on appearance is academy-level stuff where the academy instructors yell at recruits about how citizens and criminals can't have any respect for them if their boots aren't shined or their brass isn't polished.
Don't get me wrong; there is something to be said for keeping a neat, professional appearance. However, once officers are on patrol, most of them realize that the shine on their boots won't keep them from being shot. Unfortunately, those who don't realize this are often promoted.
As far as supervisory horror stories on appearance, Sheriff McDonnell's change isn't that bad. It really has no effect on the officers besides spending money on something that really shouldn't be a priority.
Do you think that the Sheriff is right to be so concerned about the deputies' buckles? Am I off-base here? We'd like to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments.