The city of Fort Oglethorpe has approved the purchase of new uniforms for its police department, which will give officers the luxury of more maneuverable material to work in.
During the Jan. 22 City Council meeting, Chief Mike Helton explained that the department has been evaluating the potential uniform change since he was hired last year.
"It's been 2002 since the department purchased uniforms. We've been wearing the same thing out there, but that's not reason for the change," Helton said. "Our uniform is attractive, we have a sharp-looking uniform. But we received quite a few officers when I first arrived that asked if we could review these uniforms, could we relook at them. We appointed a committee to study these uniforms. There are departments around us that have changed uniforms three times and still can't find what they like."
Helton says he appointed four people to the committee: Lt. John McGrath and three other officers. The officers then looked into several options, wore five different uniforms to try them out, and narrowed down what they liked the most and presented it in a report.
"The current uniform and the proposed uniform — there's not a lot of difference until you get close to them," Helton said. "However, functionally, there's a drastic difference. It catches the officers up in time for the things they have to deal with now. There are pockets and things on this uniform to carry things such as the Narcan, tourniquets in order to save limbs in case of shootings, body cam opportunities for our upcoming future, and things like that will be much better equipped on this uniform."
Helton said the lighter material will also keep officers more comfortable.
"In addition to all that, it's water repellent," Helton said. "The current uniform starts sinking the water in right away. It's much more comfortable for a 12-hour period. It's much more comfortable in case they have to go hand-to-hand with someone, or if they have to use their firearm in less-than-favorable circumstances. It's not restrictive like the current polyester uniform is."
The council ultimately approved purchasing the new threads from Summit Uniforms, which was the lowest of three bidders, in the amount of $10,705.
Helton did say that the purchase will be paid for through budgeted funds and drug seizure money.
"This money is budgeted. Of course it's beyond the normal limits, but we do have this in our funds," Helton said. "We'd like to use the uniform line item in our budget, but also take some out of our drug fund because we will have other expenditures in our uniform line such as boots and things that we'll need throughout the rest of the years. So we want to save some of that in there. Since it's drug-related and can help us with those uniforms that carry things related to that, I'm going to use some of those drug funds."