Phoenix police take bullet over cotton clothing flap

Imagine serving as a Phoenix, Ariz. police officer working outside in 115-degree summer heat while sweating bullets (excuse the pun) due to the department’s new mandated polyester-based uniform.

Meanwhile, a cooler, more breathable cotton-blend uniform sits in the officers’ locker gathering dust.

Effective Oct. 1, new Phoenix Chief Daniel Garcia will require officers to surrender their cotton-blend black uniform which includes a polo shirt and cargo-style pants. Instead, officers must wear a polyester-blend button-down shirt and dress pants.

Before the cotton ban, officers could wear either uniform.

Chief Garcia says the use of two patrol uniforms can create confusion for the public and offers criminals a better opportunity to impersonate officers.

Members of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association union asked the chief to forego the switch to polyester. Chief Garcia denied the request.

The police union and more than 100 officers have filed a grievance keep the black, cotton-based uniform which they claim is more comfortable and conducive to patrol duties.

“This is an issue of safety, not only for residents but for our officers as well,” Chief Garcia told The Arizona Republic newspaper. “A uniform is intended for identification and recognition. Having our first responders in one uniform will help visibly distinguish our team members.”

Patrol officers have had the option between the two uniforms for about 15 years.

In an online poll conducted at azcentral.com, online visitors were asked, “Should Phoenix police officers be allowed to wear more casual uniforms?" The results were 74 percent YES and 26 percent NO.

Perhaps a solution to this still unraveling story is to freshen up the cotton outfit to appear more professional and require all officers to wear the single cotton-blend uniform.

The additional price of the updated uniform could be more than offset by the number of dollars saved from officer’s heat exhaustion visits to the hospital emergency room next summer tied to summer heat and polyester duds.

At the same time, cotton threads would be a small boon for the U.S. cotton industry which could certainly use a bump in sales.

Common sense needs to prevail on this issue. The police union should be congratulated for standing up for the long-term health of police officers who put their lives on the line daily.

Cotton could indeed be the fabric, and saver, of police officers' lives.

TAGS: Cotton
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