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The 764 men and women who maintain order in the state's courthouses are wearing new uniforms for the first time in decades.
Heather gray shirts and black slacks with gold and blue piping have replaced the sky blue shirts and navy blue pants that the judicial marshals have worn for years. The marshals also have new arm patches, badges, flag pins and name tags that indicate their length of service.
The new uniforms, designed to make the marshals look more like law enforcement officers and instill pride, come as the Judicial Branch reinstates a rank structure for supervisors, said O'Donovan Murphy, director of marshal services. Lead marshals have been designated as sergeants and will wear chevrons on their collar pins. Supervising marshals have been designated lieutenants and will wear the bar insignia.
The redesign of the uniforms took about two years and coincided with the end of the current contract with Cintas Uniforms, who judicial officials said won the new contract with a bid that saves the state $28,000 a year on uniform rental costs. Each marshal is issued four pair of pants, four short-sleeve shirts and four long-sleeve shirts for an estimated $160,680 a year.
The badges, shoulder patches and ties, items that the Judicial Branch routinely purchases, cost $77,277. Some of those items had not been replaced since 2000, according to the branch. New uniform accessories, including rank pins, chevrons, silver/gold star patches and hash marks, cost $10,321. Flag pins, which replace the flag patches formerly worn by the marshals, were $3,200.
Murphy joked that as an administrator, he's normally not that popular when he goes into the field, but that he's been well-received during his recent visits to courthouses around the state.
"I was down in Fairfield, and I walked into the lockup and the guys started clapping," he said. "They're very happy, and I think it's because it's the first change we've made that's going to touch everybody."
Louis Speringo, chief marshal in the New Haven District, served as chairman of a committee to improve pride in the marshal service and helped design the new uniforms.
"I've been here for 25 years, and you see police departments come through, and they have nice uniforms, and you say, 'I wish we had this and that,' '' he said during a phone interview earlier this week.
He said he set out to create a uniform that would be "a little dressier for the courtroom" but not for the street. He came across heather gray, which he said is hard to find.
"We decided it would be a great look with the black pants," he said. "I wanted our guys to have a different look, more of a state agency type look."
Most police uniforms feature darker colors, although Connecticut State Police wear slate gray uniform shirts.
Speringo said the pride committee researched the history of the marshal and sheriff services in Connecticut, learning that they date back to 1639 and included the date on the marshals' new blue and gold arm patches. The marshals kept order in the courts until the 1720s, when they turned them over to the sheriff service, which officiated all the way through 2000, when the General Assembly redesignated them as marshals and assigned them to the Judicial Branch, according to the Speringo.
"The badge kind of ties together the sheriffs and marshals," he said.