They were intended to be a trendy addition to the police uniform that would help police to shed their stuffy image. But the Thames Valley force has ditched plans to introduce baseball caps as official headgear after the public complained it made officers look like they worked at Burger King.
After a three-month trial in November 2008, the baseball cap was expected to become part of the new-look uniform unveiled this month by Thames Valley to replace the traditional custodian helmet worn by male constables and sergeants. But a consultation on the possible introduction of the caps showed that the public thought them "scruffy, casual and unprofessional" and they were said to be "too similar to other uniforms such as Burger King, RSPCA or security guards".
The document, as reported in the Police Review magazine, also said that the baseball caps were unsuitable for older officers and were inappropriate for sombre jobs such as delivering the news of a death to bereaved relatives.
As well as the consultation, a separate survey found that 54 per cent of officers said they would refuse to wear the cap if it was introduced. The news was welcomed by Andy Viney, secretary of the Thames Valley Police Federation. He said: "Our view is that caps do not display the image associated with that of a British police constable. I think a few of the younger guys on the force quite liked them but, at 48, wearing a baseball cap does nothing for me and I think the majority of officers felt the same way."
The decision to drop the baseball cap came despite the consultation finding that many members of the public "felt that the baseball cap was practical and modern". It added: "Officers thought it was generally good in terms of comfort, fit and practicality."
Chief Inspector David Parker, in charge of the Thames Valley uniform project, agreed. He said: "It is surely far better for an officer to be working in an operational uniform that is practical. There is no doubt that whether you like or loathe the baseball cap, officers will wear them all the time. It is much harder to get people to wear helmets, flat caps and bowler hats."
Thames Valley's new-look uniform sees the white shirt, black tie, office trousers and helmet replaced by a black shirt, black combat trousers and flat caps. But the exclusion of the custodian helmet has proved controversial. Mr Viney added: "I am disappointed because the helmet is an image that makes the public instantly recognise a police officer. It is what makes us stand out from traffic wardens or other officials."
Other officers disagree. PC Shaun Brady, of Merseyside Police, told Police Review he would be glad were his force to adopt the same approach. He said: "It is cumbersome and faintly ridiculous. You cannot climb over a wall in a helmet. It is hot and makes your head ache because you have to jam it on when it is windy."Reuse content