Friday, April 27, 2018
Public safety

St. Petersburg police to change uniforms from green to blue

ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg police are happy to turn blue.

The department will soon clean out its wardrobe, replacing its standard green uniform with a dark blue that officers say will give them more cover at night and respect on patrol. New Chief Anthony Holloway said he hopes to have about two-thirds of the 550-person force outfitted by January.

"We are a paramilitary organization so no matter what we have on, we're going to look like someone in a uniform," Holloway said in a statement. "It doesn't change who we are, it doesn't change our DNA, because we are still going to be involved a lot in community policing."

One squad has tried out uniforms for several weeks, and the current favorite is the Flying Cross model, which has won praise for its ample pockets and snug fit. Patrol officers show it off like Vanna White, championing this zipper or that crease.

"I've had people say, 'Man, you guys look like you mean business now,' " said Officer Todd Laslo.

The city has budgeted $281,000 for police uniforms in fiscal year 2015, a $160,000 increase over the normal allocation to cover the cost of new attire, said police spokesman Mike Puetz. That figure is an estimate and the cost may change depending on the style and vendor the chief chooses.

It may seem like a frivolous or minor alteration, but officers say new duds are necessary for solid performance and safety. With green uniforms, they say, they are easy to spot at night. Not so with navy.

"If you're walking up on somebody, they don't see you right away," said Officer Stephanie Skyrme.

A darker hue also lends natural authority, officers say, because it is the standard color of police almost everywhere. According to Assistant Chief Melanie Bevan, the legend of St. Petersburg's green uniforms dates back decades to when former Chief E. Wilson "Bud" Purdy dressed his officers in the color of his favorite college, Michigan State.

Laslo said in recent weeks he has responded to scenes as backup, but witnesses came up to him first, assuming he was in charge because of the darker uniform.

The blended fabric of the Flying Cross uniform breathes well, officers said, helping them keep as cool as possible in the Florida sun. They are also fond of the Blauer brand, which is made of a synthetic wool. Both wick away moisture without losing shape.

"You need performance for" running, jumping, and other physical parts of the job, "but when it's all said and done, you look professional," said Officer Jeremy Johnson.

Laslo said if he is caught in a downpour in the green uniform, he will stay miserably soaked for most of his shift. Within hours, he said, his shirt will be loose and untucked — a look he considers unbecoming of an authority figure.

"If you come up (to a suspect) looking sloppy, they could take advantage of that," Laslo said.

Officers wash their own uniforms, and some bring their clothes to dry cleaners around the city. They said they usually have about five pairs of pants and five shirts for a week.

The front of the Flying Cross uniform has a false column of buttons — only the top and bottom actually fasten. Beneath is a zipper that officers say provides easy access to interior pockets. They also favor pockets on the thighs for holding phones and notebooks.

At the hip, the uniform features a small hole for radio cords, a convenience missing from the green uniforms. Only about 10 officers are trying out the new gear, and they met with Holloway last week to discuss their preferences.

Other officers have expressed some lighthearted jealousy toward the handful of officers selected to model the uniforms, Laslo said, and "a lot of the guys and girls will come up and start touching" their sleeves or pant legs.

Johnson said he believes just about any change would be well-received but acknowledges the pressure to make a good decision.

"You're literally changing the face of the department," he said.

Contact Zachary T. Sampson at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @zacksampson.

Comments
Deputy, another driver injured when car strikes patrol vehicle

Deputy, another driver injured when car strikes patrol vehicle

LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy and another driver were injured when a sports car hit a sheriff’s sport-utility vehicle on Thursday evening, according to the Sheriff’s Office.Both were expected to survive.The crash took place just after 6 ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Police announce two more arrests in St. Pete strip club shooting

Police announce two more arrests in St. Pete strip club shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — Two more arrests were made recently in connection with the April 2 shooting death of a man outside an unlicensed adult entertainment venue on Fourth Street S, police said.Rodriguez Green, 24, of Largo and Darius Trennell Collins, 23,...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Hernando High student accused of threatening to shoot up school

Hernando High student accused of threatening to shoot up school

BROOKSVILLE — A 17-year-old Hernando High School student was arrested Wednesday for threatening to shoot people at the school, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.The student was serving a suspension at the time of the incident, deputie...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Details emerge in fiery crash that killed prominent Moffitt doctor

TEMPLE TERRACE — Investigators say an orange Dodge Charger was moving about 90 mph when it ran a red light and broadsided a prominent doctor’s car last month on Fowler Avenue. The impact caused Dr. Charles Canaan Williams’ Acura to...
Updated: 10 hours ago
St. Pete police: Man who stole car with baby inside arrested

St. Pete police: Man who stole car with baby inside arrested

ST. PETERSBURG — A man accused of stealing a car with a baby inside earlier this week was arrested Thursday morning when officers spotted him in another stolen car, according to St. Petersburg police.Rashad Webb, 19, was arrested at about 2 a.m. afte...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Long wait at Wingstop ends in brawl, hot oil and second degree burns

Long wait at Wingstop ends in brawl, hot oil and second degree burns

TAMPA — A customer visited Wingstop on Sunday night to pick up his order. What happened next was off-menu:Robert Williams said he suffered second-degree burns on his back and legs after a Wingstop employee threw hot oil on him during a scuffle.Willia...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Orlando man sought in Interstate 4 carjackings captured in Tampa

Orlando man sought in Interstate 4 carjackings captured in Tampa

TAMPA — A 43-year-old Orlando man who was being sought in a string of carjackings along Interstate 4 was captured on Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Majar L. Jones, 43, was considered armed and dangerous and the subjec...
Published: 04/26/18
Florida has one of the highest rates of fatal hit-and-run crashes, study finds

Florida has one of the highest rates of fatal hit-and-run crashes, study finds

Florida is among the top three states with the highest per capita rates of fatal hit-and-run crashes, a new study published on Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found.From 2006 to 2016, the organization examined hit-and-run crashes in...
Published: 04/26/18
Florida man pours gasoline and sets girlfriend on fire, police say

Florida man pours gasoline and sets girlfriend on fire, police say

GAINESVILLE — A 55-year-old Florida man is accused of pouring gasoline on his girlfriend and setting her on fire.Gainesville police arrest report says Roosevelt Kitchen was charged with attempted murder. He was being held Thursday on a $1 million bon...
Published: 04/26/18
FHP identifies driver in crash that killed

FHP identifies driver in crash that killed "smiling" teen

TRINITY — Friends said what they’ll remember the most about Lillia Morris is that she was always smiling.The 17-year-old Mitchell High School junior was killed Tuesday when a sport-utility vehicle ran a red light on State Road 54 and slammed into the...
Published: 04/26/18