LARGO — For the first time in decades, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office will be changing the colors of its deputies' law enforcement uniforms.
Deputies have always worn white shirts, what Sheriff Bob Gualtieri calls a "tradition" at the agency. But amid public safety concerns and an agencywide support for new uniforms, deputies will soon be garbed in darker attire, the sheriff said Wednesday.
"There's been a lot of discussion about it. Deputies have asked to switch," he said. "We're going to get with the times, and the correct thing to do is switch to the dark uniform."
Deputies currently sport white shirts and green pants with gray stripes. Starting as early as spring, their uniforms will consist of dark green shirts and pants with black stripes.
The safety of deputies triggered the change in attire. The white shirts "stick out like a sore thumb" when deputies are working during evening hours.
For example, Gualtieri said, a deputy was recently trying to hide behind a tree during a call, but his bright white shirt gave him away.
"It's not tactically sound," the sheriff added.
During the winter, jackets and windbreakers help offset the stark whiteness of the shirts. But during the sizzling summer months, covering up in warm temperatures isn't an option.
In a survey conducted by the Sheriff's Office, about 80 percent of deputies said they supported a uniform change.
"Feedback from everybody within the agency and the public has been really fantastic," Gualtieri said. "People really like it. They like the look. It's different."
In recent weeks, Gualtieri has been sporting the new uniform himself. About 20 others within the agency are also trying out the new gear, designed by several vendors in different types of fabric.
The uniforms will also include new patches designed by the Sheriff's Office. Before, the patches were a solid green with a white star. The new patches are black with bolder letters, with the state of Florida emblazoned in the middle of a gold star.
Deputies in law enforcement positions and out in the public, including patrol deputies and bailiffs, will receive the new uniforms. Detention deputies will continue to work in their white shirts and black tactical pants, but will also receive the uniforms for public events.
Within the next few weeks, the Sheriff's Office will choose one vendor and place the orders for the new uniforms, which should arrive sometime in the spring or summer. Gualtieri said the cost will not be available until the order is placed, but said he aims for the uniforms to remain cost-neutral for the agency.
Deputies at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office also wear green uniforms, but they don white shirts for events such as court appearances and funerals, a spokeswoman said.
At the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, deputies wear white shirts and green trousers with black stripes. In April, its deputies were named the best dressed in North America by the North American Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors. The agency does not plan to switch to darker shirts, a spokeswoman said.
Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.