Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hi-vis stab vests

Saw some officers in the area I'm currently residing in wearing hi-vis stab vests!!!

Sorry if that sounds strange, but its a complete unique phenomenon to me! We've always worn black overt stab vests, which whilst warm and require a hi vis overlay sometimes, look quite smart and professional. The hi-vis ones, with various bits of kit hanging off it, just look messy and thrown-together, though I'd imagine the officers would be cooler wearing those than black with hi vis over the top.

Is this the way of the future in an effort to make the police more community friendly? I liked the way Strathclyde police went - all black, with polo shirts, combat trousers and flat cap. I tried it once - for the first three hours of foot patrol I went out in white short sleeves, body armour and helmet, and was mithered by the public and got all sorts of passing comments from drunks. After refs, I wore a black fleece under the body armour, with a very high neck which zips up so you can't see the tie or white shit, a flat cap and belt attached to body armour. Was left alone to walk in peace, not even so much as a request for the nearest cash machine! Forgot to attach the epaulettes to the fleece too, which was an added bonus.

I suppose police should be approachable and friendly, but when you can't go more than six steps without being asked stupid questions by three separate members of the public, you wish you could just be left in peace, intimidating enough to not be bothered with trivial rubbish, but not intimidating enough to deter people bringing genuine police business to attention. Also helps if, when dealing with offenders, you don't look to them or the public that you're dressed up to give them a hug straight after the bollocking, which is what I think hi vis achieves.

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In my old county force we used to wear the flourescent covers for the body armour. We then switched back to black but it was deemed too visually offensive.

So now the latest fashion is wearing a high visibility flourecsent waist length jacket with black body armour on top!!! Looks really weird...

I also find the short sleeve shirt with black body armour and black gloves combination amusing... Triny and Suzanna needed me thinks.
Talking about hi-vis, I'm tempted to share a little instance of culture shock I experienced after I moved from Germany to the UK as a student a few years ago: I came across the "modern" British police officer.

Almost two decades of life experience up to that point had taught me time and time again that "hi-vis" is worn because it means "high visibility to traffic", especially fast-moving traffic in bad weather conditions. It follows that I equated hi-vis with road traffic accidents on motorways, road construction workers and binmen.

The idea that police could be using the same stuff for "high visibility to Joe Public ambling along on the side-walk" (in bright sunshine) had honestly never remotely occurred to me.

Naturally, I came to the UK expecting the standard British police officer to look neat and somewhat fit (yes, naive, I know), wear black with a white shirt and have some silver dangling off all that in strategic places. Instead, I saw people in black trousers with a tent-like neon-yellow jacket that would fit a pregnant woman.

Somewhat disappointing.

Also rather confusing. I mistook the first police officers I saw for binmen. If I had been running from muggers or something, I'm sure I would have run straight past them in search for some official looking people in black.

As it was, I realised my mistake, stared a little and filed the experience under "aha, this is what I need to look out for then". The following years my old visual expectations were hibernating.

However, to my own surprise I immediately recognised a "normally dressed" officer without hi-vis jacket on the other end of the local high street one day.

I pointed him out to a British friend of mine (he did look rather handsome) but she couldn't see him amongst the little hustle and bustle going on around him. I pointed out he wasn't wearing a hi-vis jacket, to which I got the curt response: "Then how am I supposed to see him, huh?!"

There were lots of possible replies to that but I kept quiet and just began to wonder.

It seems that formerly "high" visibility now means just "visibility" for some people in a public who probably have forgotten (or never learned) what the police uniform actually looks like.

I'm sure officers in full traditional uniform now have a realistic chance of watching someone undetected or even "sneaking up" on someone who is up to no good.

Was "camouflage by social engineering", by any chance, the idea all along?

But what's the point in a hi-vis stab-vest then?
It seems to be the solution to solving all of societys problems doesnt it. Cant put any more bobbies on the street so lets dress them as brightly as possible so it looks like there are more. We will have hi vis trousers next and hi vis face paint.

I dont bother wearing hi vis as i tend to siply stay in a car. If I get out to deal with an incident on the road then I can put the jacket on. Just look a moron driving around with a hi vis jacket/vest on! Perhaps we should have the CC of each force sat at his desk wearing all this high vis crap
My force issued a yellow harnass to go over our armour last year. I refuse to wear it. I like my belt and am skilled in using all items now from muscle memory. It also has another name badge on it.

In the conflict resoloution model the first part is "officer presence". I would rather not turn upto a job looking like a crossing warden....
As one of the NEW WAVE community police tactical trained cycling officers the flourescent stab vest is a god-send. Cycling in black all summer led to dehydration and somewhat sociable problems. In the winter it is worn over the fleece for hi-vis to other road users who believe that an officer on a bike cannot report them for offences !!!
The only downside is that all the PCSO staff have bought their own personally so I am not distinguishable from them and often public do not believe I am an actual officer.
I have enjoyed reading your articles. It is well written. It looks like you spend a large amount of time and effort in writing the blog. I am appreciating your effort. .

Hi Vis Jackets
For safety purposes, high visibility Safety vest and Reflective tape are going to make you far more visible.
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