The psychological influence of the police uniform

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Hush, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. Hush

    Hush Moderator Staff Member

    Came across this while looking up pictures for the hat discussion in the other thread...

    The psychological influence of the police uniform

    The psychological influence of the police uniform

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    By Richard R. Johnson, M.S.
    Most people can identify a police officer by the official police uniform. When citizens on a busy street are in need of help, they scan the crowds of pedestrians looking for the distinctive uniform of a police officer. Drivers who come to an intersection occupied by a person in a police uniform usually willingly submit to that person''s hand directions. Criminals usually curb their unlawful behavior when they spot a uniformed police officer in the area. Many parents teach their children to respect and trust a person in the police uniform. Police academy recruits relish the day when they may finally wear their official police uniforms. What is so special about a uniform which is often made of cheap polyester and is usually hot and uncomfortable to wear?

    The crisp uniform of the police officer conveys power and authority. When a police officer puts on his or her uniform the officer is perceived in a very different way by the public. He or she is viewed as embodying each person''s stereotypes about all police officers. Research has suggested that clothing has a powerful impact on bow people are perceived, and this goes for the police officer as well. The uniform of a police officer has been found to have a profound psychological impact on those who view it. Research has also suggested that even slight alterations to the style of the uniform will change how citizens will perceive the officer.
    The police uniform is a tradition as old as the field of law enforcement itself In 1829 the first modem police force, the London Metropolitan Police, developed the first standard police apparel. These first police officers, the famous "Bobbies" of London, were issued a dark blue, paramilitary-style uniform.. The color blue was chosen to distinguish the police from the British military who wore red and white uniforms at the time. The first official police force in the United States was established in the city of New York in 1845. Based on the London police, the New York City Police Department adopted the dark blue uniform in 1853, Other cities, such as Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit quickly followed suit by establishing police departments based on the London model, including the adoption of the dark blue, paramilitary-style uniform.
    To this day, the majority of police uniforms in. the United States continue to have a paramilitary appearance and are generally of a dark color. Darker colors may have been preferred for their case in cleaning and their ability to help conceal the wearer in tactical situations. Dark colors help cover up stains and keep the officer from being easily spotted by lawbreakers, especially at night. However, why do most police agencies insist on dressing patrol officers in uniforms? Is this simply because of tradition? Is it only for the ease of identification by citizens? Maybe it is because the uniform actually psychologically influences how officers are perceived by the public.
    The Social Significance of Clothing
    When a person encounters a stranger, the person seeks clues from the stranger''s appearance which can reveal things about the stranger. One powerful clue to a person''s background is clothing. Clothing serves as a mental shortcut to identifying a persons sex, status, group membership, legitimacy, authority, and occupation. Clothing and physical appearance are very important in the initial development of social relationships. Studies have revealed that physical appearance, including clothing, is the factor most often used in developing a first impression of someone. Clothing has been found to have an even greater effect on making first impressions than does personality.

    In early social interactions, clothing has a significant psychological influence on people''s perceptions. Personnel administrators who were asked to rate the competency of similar female job applicants consistently rated the women in conservative, slightly-masculine attire as the most competent. In another study, both high school students and teachers were asked to rate, pictures of female athletes, some of whom were in uniform and the others in casual street clothes, All of the athletes were perceived as being more professional, possessing higher ability, and having more team spirit when viewed in uniform. Both students and teachers, have also rated photos of students in private school-type uniforms as having higher scholastic ability.
    The uniform worn by a police officer also elicits stereotypes about that human being''s status, authority, attitudes, and motivations, The police uniform serves to identify a person as one vested with the powers of the state to arrest and use force. The uniform also serves to establish order and conformity within the ranks of those who wear it by suppressing individuality. The psychological and physical impact of the police uniform should not be underestimated. Depending on the background of the citizen, the police uniform can elicit emotions ranging from pride and respect, to fear and anger.
    The Power of the Police Uniform
    Research has supported these suggestions about the police uniform''s power and authority. In one study people who were asked to rank order 25 different occupational uniforms by several categories of feelings. The test subjects consistently ranked the police uniform as the one most likely to induce feelings of safety. In another experiment, models were consistently rated as more competent, reliable, intelligent, and helpful when pictured in a police uniform than they were in casual street clothes. Drivers were also found to commit far fewer turn violations at an intersection if a person wearing a police-style uniform was standing on the sidewalk near the comer. This occurred even though the uniform was not that of a real police department in the area and had no badge or weapons. One interesting experiment to test the power of the police uniform was conducted by psychologist Dr. Leonard Bickman. Pedestrians on a city street were approached at random and ordered by a research assistant to either pick tip a paper bag, give a dime to another person, or step back from a bus stop. The research assistant was alternately dressed in casual street clothes, a milkman uniform, or a grey, police-style uniform bearing a badge but lacking weapons. Only the police-style uniform resulted in a high rate of cooperation from citizens. Obedience to the police-style uniform usually continued even after the research assistant quickly walked away and did not watch to ensure compliance.

    Changes in the Uniform Style
    Although the police uniform, in general suggests the authority of the wearer, details about a police officer''s uniform, such as the style of hat or the tailoring, can influence the level of authority emanating from the officer, Photographs of uniformed male and female police officers were evaluated wearing nine different styles of head gear, including no hat at all. Even though psychological tests showed that the officers were perceived to have authority under all of the circumstances, the type of hat varied the level of authority attributed to the officer. The traditional "bus driver" garrison cap and the "smoky bear" campaign hat were found to convey more authority than the baseball cap or no hat at all. Many studies have looked at the influence of eliminating the paramilitary style of the police uniform. In one experiment students viewed black and white drawings of three styles of police uniforms. Two of the uniforms were of a traditional paramilitary-style, but were lacking a duly belt or weapons. The third, nontraditional uniform involved a sport coat blazer over slacks, and a shirt with a tie. Although all three uniforms were rated similarly for objectivity and trustworthiness, the blazer style uniform rated slightly higher for professionalism, However a similar experiment using color photos found the traditional, paramilitary style uniforms rated as more honest, good, helpful, and competent than the blazer uniform.

    In 1969, the police in Menlo Park, California dispensed with their traditional navy blue, paramilitary-style uniforms and adopted a nontraditional uniform in hopes of improving police community relations. The new, nontraditional uniform consisted of a forest green sport coat blazer worn over black slacks, a white shirt, and a black tie. The officer''s badge was displayed on the blazer and the officer''s weapons were concealed under the coat. Once word spread about Menlo Park''s attempts, over 400 other police department in the United States also experimented with a blazer style uniform.
    After wearing the new uniforms for 18 months the Menlo Park police officers displayed fewer authoritarian characteristics on psychological tests when compared to officers in the surrounding jurisdictions. Also for that first one-and-one-half years with the new uniforms, assaults on the Menlo Park police decreased by 30% and injuries to civilians by the police dropped 50%. These changes were originally thought to have been a result of the uniform changes but there were other factors at work at die same time. The number of college educated officers in the department increased dramatically and the traditional autocratic management style of the department was abolished during this same time period.
    In 1977, after wearing the blazer style uniform for 8 years, the Menlo Park Police Department realized that the sport coat uniform did not command respect and returned to a traditional, paramilitary-style uniform. A final evaluation showed that although assaults on officers had dropped during the first 18 month of wearing the new uniforms, the number of assaults steadily began to rise again until the rate was double that of the year before the uniform change occurred. During the four years after the Menlo Park police returned to a traditional style uniform the number of assaults against their officers dropped steadily. The experiments with the hats and the style of the police uniform suggest that changes in the style of a police uniform can have an effect on the perceived authority, power, and ability to control. What about the color of the police uniform? Does the color of the uniform psychologically influence the people who view it? Does the color have an influence on the officer who is wearing the uniform?
    The Influences of Color
    The majority of police uniforms in the United States today are produced in darker colors such as black, blue, brown, green, and grey. Just as with the style of the police uniform, the color of the police uniform has meaning. Psychological tests have found that people associate colors with specific moods. For example, red is generally associated with excitement and stimulation, thus explaining why it is often a color in flashing emergency vehicle lights. These tests have also found that the color blue is associated with feelings of security and comfort, and black is most often associated with power and strength. Studies of both high school and college students in the United States have found that students perceived light colors such as white and yellow as weak, but also good and active, The same students perceived dark colors such as black and brown as strong and passive, but also as bad. These results were not based on cultural influences because they did not vary with the race of the students.
    Even people in Europe, Western Asia, Central Africa, and the Middle East had similar perceptions of colors. Across all cultures that have been studied, light colors are consistently associated with goodness and weakness, while dark colors are consistently perceived as strong but evil. On psychological inventories, test subjects rate lighter colors as more pleasant and less dominant. Dark colors on the other hand elicit emotions of anger, hostility, dominance, and aggression.....

  2. 263FPD

    263FPD Administrator Staff Member

    I didn't see the part where a mere site of a police uniforms throws the likes of CMPSA and other whackers in to a masturbation frenzy.
  3. Usa8235

    Usa8235 MassCops Member

    I am sure they have their own, privatetly purchased uniforms for their own petting and coveting pleasure:smoke:
  4. LGriffin

    LGriffin Supporting Member

    I have never seen a uniform have more of a psychological impact than MSP's uniform. It worked like a charm with the mentally ill in our area, quite possibly because in the words of Rainman it is "Definitely very sparkly. Very sparkly."

    Further, I was never the kind to wear a cross strap "for back support" (eyeroll) but when our Chief merely switched our patrol shirts to french blue, my job got so much easier. Black and white cruiser, PD's name conspicuously displayed all over the vehicle, but I would get out and often hear "Oh shit, the staties are here." which was just hilarious but got them in the back quicker which made getting paid shit not so bad.
  5. Simon

    Simon Guest

    Where's the part about women liking men in uniform ???????? Or GUYS in Costanza's world.
  6. 263FPD

    263FPD Administrator Staff Member

    I have, but it's not in the good way.


    Tell me how people were impacted when these fuckers showed up at their door.
  7. Johnny Law

    Johnny Law Nemo me impune lacessit Staff Member

    I read somewhere that officers wearing leather coats were "x" amount of times less likely to be assaulted than officers wearing other types of coats. I've worn leather in the winter exclusively for the last 10 years, and I don't know if I noticed a drop in assaults, but it definitely softens a punch. Only cruiser officers can wear the leather, walking beat guys aren't allowed, it's too "intimidating". Fuckin pussies (not the walking beat guys, the admin)
  8. Hush

    Hush Moderator Staff Member

    Leather coats can be intimidating, but I think the end-all be-all for badass intimidating police uniforms has to be the motorcycle boots, leather jacket, helmet, and aviators. These guys do it best:
    May I see your license and registration, please.
  9. Johnny Law

    Johnny Law Nemo me impune lacessit Staff Member

    Magnum Force, one of the best Dirty Harry films! My favorite lines

    "Your gun is out of it's holster lieutenant, ....first time?"


    "You're a good man Briggs, and a good man always knows his limitations"

    That being said, anyone know where I can get a 1/4 turn silencer for my .357 Python?
  10. fra444

    fra444 MassCops Member

    I can read all of that!!!

    LG after reading your post my friend I have to ask, do you need a moment alone?! LMFAO!!
  11. LGriffin

    LGriffin Supporting Member

    All set, 444. Just had to go quick draw in the mirror for a while. You know how it is :redcarded:

    Those aren't women, snipe, they're critters...cruiser critters to be exact:wink_smile:

  12. 78thrifleman

    78thrifleman Smurf theft victim

    I wonder what kind of an impact the Washington State Police's bowtie has
  13. fra444

    fra444 MassCops Member


    I thought they were cute little cuddly Badge Bunnies!! (No offense BB!!!)
  14. Delta784

    Delta784 Guest

    Or about how they cause otherwise normal citizens to make really stupid jokes we've all heard about 10,000,000 times already about donuts and "I didn't do it!" or "Hey officer, arrest him!"

    ---------- Post added at 01:39 ---------- Previous post was at 01:37 ----------

    Leathers are optional private purchase for us....when I was on the mounted unit (I was issued one there), the one time I got dumped off the horse onto concrete, I was wearing a leather, and it would have been a lot worse without it.
  15. 263FPD

    263FPD Administrator Staff Member

  16. MSP75

    MSP75 Guest

    I would love to see a study regarding that phenomenon. Most of the "joking" comments are very similar and absolutely stupid.

    Sent from my Droid Incredible using Tapatalk.
  17. Delta784

    Delta784 Guest

    Do they really, truly, seriously think they're being the least bit original?

    When someone raises their hands and says "I swear didn't do it!", I stare at them for a couple of seconds, completely deadpan, then say in a monotone...."That's very funny. I've never heard that one before".
  18. jedediah1

    jedediah1 MassCops Member

    i like pointing at the guy next to him, who of course he's trying to impress, and say "i know, i'm here for him"

    now i'd like to say "that's not what my warrant says", but who knows how well that goes over with the average douche in massachusetts these days

    oh, and


    smart, professional, courteous, helpful, bilingual, probably won't throw feces like the non-uniformed monkey, all because of the dark color
  19. USMCMP5811

    USMCMP5811 Administrator Staff Member

    Well, you can get with this!


    Or you can get with that!


    Zip Zop Zoppity!

  20. Usa8235

    Usa8235 MassCops Member

    i never understood the whole donut thing...where else do you get a descent cup of coffee on last halfs ? the general public is just stupid...and often times down right scary stupid
  21. EnforceOfficer

    EnforceOfficer New Member

    I was have a smirk when I see that uniform...

    This uniform is pretty bad-ass...:unsure:


    Luxembourg National Police-Traffic Division
  22. GARDA

    GARDA Subscribing Member

    If my wife and kids had a dime for every time they've had to listen to me reenact this scene before running out the door at all hours of the night & day toward yet another all-you-can-eat buffet that only serves gratuitous amounts of shit sandwich... I'd be able to retire today.

    View attachment 1751

    Sometimes I just crack myself up.
    (truth be told, I only use it to allay their fears a little... oh hell, maybe even mine).
  23. MSP75

    MSP75 Guest

    They look like they're going to a gay club. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as the great Jerry Seinfeld would say.
  24. TRPDiesel

    TRPDiesel MassCops Member

    Reminds me of this



  25. mtc

    mtc High Priestess Staff Member

    I prefer men with no uniform at all... :wink_smile: :smoke:

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