The history of the police uniform in the United States dates back to the Civil War. In fact, many police officers got their first uniforms from the Union Army supplies. That’s why modern police attire is most often blue.
While today, police and the military are two separate entities, back then, many officers were formerly soldiers. It may have been convenient to utilize the surplus soldier uniforms by using them for the police force two centuries ago, but why did the tradition stay?
The importance of the uniform is hard to overlook. It has become an integral part of the way society lives.
The Psychological Impact
Even the most intimidating SWAT and military equipment doesn’t offer as much psychological impact as a uniform.
When one person meets another for the first time, he or she looks for clues in the appearance to form an opinion. One of the first things we notice is clothing. A person wearing a police uniform immediately makes a certain impression. For the majority of people, it’s a feeling of safety.
A series of psychological experiments have shown that when people see a person in a police uniform, they associate him or her with someone reliable, competent, and intelligent. The same people had different feelings about a person in casual clothing.
Civilians react to police uniforms in a certain way even if the officers don’t have badges or carry any law enforcement equipment.
Professor Leonard Bickman from Vanderbilt University conducted an experiment. He dressed his assistants in casual clothing, a milkman’s uniform, and a guard’s uniform.
These assistants asked the passerby to do random things, such as pick up a paper bag from the ground, move away from the bus stop, or give a dime to a stranger. About 19% of people obeyed the assistant in casual clothing, 14% did what the milkman told them, and a whopping 38% obeyed the “police officer.”
Belonging And Equality
The psychological impact a police uniform makes on civilians is highly important, but it has a huge influence on the relationship between the officers as well.
Wearing a uniform provides a sense of belonging. It creates a feeling of equality. The uniform brings officers together and makes them all feel a part of one team, regardless of the ranks.
All of the above improves the overall effort and team spirit. Since police officers often have to deal with life-threatening situations, the social cohesion is highly important for their safety.
Even though police officers can take advantage of high-tech weapons, the latest tactical headsets, and other equipment to ensure their safety, the uniform still plays one of the most important roles in their lives.
A uniform is a vital part of the police officer’s work. It is a source of pride, respect, and power. It reflects and evokes feelings of duty and obedience. This uniform has become an integral part of society. It stimulates the instinct to obey authority and abide by the law.