Home of the kiss-me-quick hat aims to put police back in white helmets

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The bohemian people of Brighton deserve a police force that reflects their taste so it is only fitting that officers are likely to adopt headgear last seen at the end of the Sixties.

Foot patrols in the new city of Brighton and Hove will be the UK's only police to wear white helmets if the city council leader, Ken Bodfish, gets his way.

Officers in Brighton and Hove wore white helmets during the summer until 1968 when they were dropped in favour of the regulation blue when the town's police were absorbed into the county force. The helmets had been a mark of the area's difference and status, as well as a celebration of summer, that were fondly remembered by older residents and long- serving officers.

Mr Bodfish now wants to bring them back as a mark of the resurgence of civic pride that has followed the granting of city status to Brighton and Hove. Such was their popularity that his proposal has already won support from officers and looks highly likely to be endorsed by the police authority and chief constable.

The force is considering merging the police divisions in Hove and Brighton and Mr Bodfish said adopting white helmets would be a natural step if the move went ahead.

"It is a matter of combining pride in the new city, the need to improve visibility of bobbies on the beat and some good fun," he said. "It demonstrates that this is a major seaside resort with a fun side to it. And it will not cost a thing, a white helmet is no more expensive than a blue one."

Mr Bodfish said there was no reason to suspect that in the seaside world of kiss-me-quick hats the distinctive headwear might lead to some good- natured taunting of the police. "It never did when they were used before. I think it will help to bring the police and community closer together." The police response was immediate and enthusiastic. Chief Inspector Stuart Harrison, of the Hove division, said: "The chief constable and chief officers have been trying to raise the status and visibility of foot patrols, which is something the public want to see.

"It would be seen as something of a status symbol. The city has always been based on tourism and it would be another feature of the identity of the city as being somewhere a little bit different."

Lest anyone see the switch as a frivolous matter, Mr Harrison said there were sound operational reasons for the change. "Foot-patrol officers can be absorbed into the streetscape but these helmets are highly visible and they do stand out in a way that a dark helmet does not."