Hush-hush police teams admit rustling on duty

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THE POLICE are facing a new hazard in their battle against crime - rustling trousers.

Officers equipped with the new American-style uniforms complain that covert operations are being blown by a disastrous fashion mistake. The linings of the new trousers rustle loudly when they are out on the beat.

The uniform is being worn by 400 officers from 19 forces in a three-month trial. It has a man-made-fibre lining designed to protect them from the elements. Unfortunately, it sticks to the legs when it is hot. Worse, it melts when exposed to extreme heat - a serious problem for officers called out to a fire.

Police chiefs are to tell designers at the Defence, Clothing and Textiles Agency to go back to the drawing board.

They have also ordered changes to the new jacket because the elastic interfered with access to the police utility belt. Officers have had difficulty grabbing handcuffs and batons. And the black fleeces have been ordered in bigger sizes after male and female officers complained that they were "extremely tight".

Clothing experts and ergonomists are studying the complaints. Dr Robin Hooper, an ergonomist at Loughborough university, said that the trial garments had generally proved popular but needed "tweaking".

"The new uniform was basically well liked. The trial of the trousers worked in the sense that it kept the officers dry when it rained," he said.

"It seemed to produce a rustling noise and obviously for the police this could have serious consequences. If there was something to be done in a covert way, the officers said, they didn't like the trousers rustling."

The new coats, fleeces and jackets will replace the old woollen jumpers, shirts and black-cloth jackets by the end of the year. They are designed to be worn with body armour.

A spokeswoman for the police said that a new mini trial of the final police uniform will be held.

"We are redesigning the trousers. They wanted a pair that did everything but the lining proved to be unpopular. We are looking at this again."