Mayor Rick Kriseman considers uniform change for police officers

Published June 19, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — There has been chatter over the years about a potential uniform change at the city's police department. That could now be inching closer to reality.

After recently hearing from officers, Mayor Rick Kriseman is pondering changes that could give the police force a new image.

That includes anything from minor tweaks to the mint green shirts officers wear to a complete color change or perhaps doing something different with the cruisers, city spokesman Ben Kirby said this week.

Since he took office in January, Kriseman has met regularly with officers, according to his calendar. Many have said they want dark blue or black uniforms.

Nothing has been decided yet, Kirby said.

At this point, neither Kirby, nor the police union, which has also been advocating for a new look, could say how much a uniform change would cost. It's possible Kriseman could include the change in next year's budget. That won't be known until he submits it to the council July 1.

The department has been using its current uniform, featuring the light green shirt and forest green slacks, for at least 40 years.

Police union vice president George Lofton said he believes it would be cheaper than whatever the city spends now because many other departments already have dark uniforms.

He also said the quality of uniforms has improved, so wearing a dark color is more bearable in Florida. Assistant Chief Melanie Bevan has her staff researching options, Lofton said.

The desire to change uniforms is about more then aesthetics, Lofton said.

"When you work at night, the shirt color kind of glows a little bit," he said. "Nobody has that color shirt."

Most law enforcement agencies in the bay area have dark uniforms. Earlier this year, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office announced it will ditch its white shirts for a dark green uniform.

That change is going on now, sheriff's spokeswoman Cristen Rensel said. She could not say how much it will cost; a total amount won't be known until all orders are placed.

Not everyone might be on board with a change in St. Petersburg.

Kurt Donley, who heads the criminal justice committee for the local NAACP branch, is concerned that police officers look more like soldiers in darker colors.

"I think it would be better if they didn't all look like military SWAT teams," he said.

Donley suggested Kriseman do a focus group or survey to see what residents think.