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Police Uniforms: Concern Mounts Over Confusion

Officers should be kept distinct from other uniformed individuals on the streets, says Fed chairman

Concern is mounting that the public are failing to distinguish between fully warranted officers and other uniformed officials – including PCSOs and council workers.

Police Federation of England and Wales Chairman Paul McKeever said similarities in attire is leading to confusion – and is an issue for forces across the country.

Mr McKeever was speaking after Ian Johnston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, called for the force to undertake a review of police uniforms next year after being told by the public they could not recognise officers and would sometimes mistake them for council workers or PCSOs.

He wants officers to wear a traditional Custodians’ Helmet – similar to the Met headgear pictured – more often to make them instantly recognisable.

Gwent Police Deputy Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said the force had recently published a revised uniform regulation and added that officers were proud of their distinct identity.

He stressed: “The police helmet is not only there to protect officers, it remains an important symbol of reassurance to our communities and we are keen to ensure this continues.”

However, Mr McKeever maintained that there needed to be changes in the attire of PCSOs and other non-warranted officials – as all uniforms were now being designed along similar lines to meet the practicalities of the job.

In an interview with PoliceOracle.com he stressed that PCSOs fulfilled an important role. But he added: “There needs to be a clear delineation between the role of the police officers and the uniform they wear and those who are not officers.

“It is all to do with trust. It has taken us 200 years to build the British policing model to something that people understand. If there are people wearing uniforms very similar to those of an officer without the same powers and unwittingly deceiving the public that is something that needs to be looked at.”

Mr McKeever’s views were supported by Jeff Mapps, Chairman of Gwent Police Federation, who said maintaining the identity of the warranted officer was crucial.

While the uniform of a PCSO was different in Gwent, he admitted that many people could easily mistake them for PCs. “It is vital we get the demarcation so that the public know exactly who the officer is,” he emphasised.

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