A blue day on the beat

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The policemen who patrol the birthplace of Robert Peel are the first in Britain to lose their "bobbies' helmets" and to surrender their uniquely non-militaristic uniform, writes Andrew Rosthorn. Greater Manchester Police is the first force in Britain to switch to American-style jeep jackets. Patrolmen in caps and short blue "blouson" jackets, with long American "night sticks" on their belts, now patrol in Bury, below the statue of the Home Secretary who founded the Metropolitan Police.

Last week, one of the men who has to wear the kit wrote anonymously, and sadly, to the Manchester Evening News: "I am a policeman, and I regularly walk the beat. Since wearing the new uniform I have been mistaken by members of the public for a security guard, gas meter reader, car park attendant and a special constable. When I wore my'old-fashioned' helmet, no-one ever mistook me. I hope no other police force makes the same mistake."