Published September 11. 2012 4:00AM
Montville - Officers in the town police department could be in new uniforms as soon as next month after a Monday night vote by the Town Council.
The council voted to change some minor language in the police department's policy and procedure manual - a final step in a process that will pave the way for new patrol duty uniforms.
Police union President Robin Salvatore said the new black uniforms, tried by the department earlier this year, are designed to be more comfortable than the current uniforms.
"We do want to look good, but we also want to be able to function," Salvatore said of the new uniforms. "They're not only good for morale. It makes it easier for you to do your job. With those wool pants that we have it's impossible to climb fences or go through the window of a house."
Salvatore was referring to the current model that comes equipped with wool pants that officers said are uncomfortable and difficult to run in. Officers also said they were forced to dry clean their current uniforms because a regular washing machine would ruin them.
The estimated cost to provide the department's 22 officers with two new shirts and a pair of all-season pants is $5,324, according to Salvatore. Another $5,011 will be needed for new gun belts and belt attachments for 14 officers.
The budget passed for this fiscal year includes $16,000 for police uniforms. The council's 7-0 vote Monday to make minor adjustments to the police policy and procedure manual put an end to months of discussion by the council and Public Safety Commission.
The new uniforms remove pins from the front of shirts, which alleviates the chance they may be used as a weapon in an altercation with a suspect. Name plates and patches will now be sewn into each shirt. Another benefit of the new uniforms is improved durability, officers said.
Lt. Leonard Bunnell and some councilors expressed reservations in recent weeks that the black uniform would make it difficult for members of the public to recognize the police officers in certain situations, such as at night.
They also questioned the uniform's new hat, which is a baseball cap rather than the trooper hat that members of the state police wear. The concerns were ultimately not enough to dissuade the councilors.
A more regal uniform - equipped with a heavy jacket, wide brim hat and brown belt - will also remain an alternative uniform to be reserved for special town functions.