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Covington PD – Not Just a Department in the City, but Part of the City

LCovington PDt. Col. Spike Jones has heard it before. “People always say that police work is one of the toughest jobs, but no one in this department feels that way,” says the 23-year veteran of the Covington Police Department. “We’re connected to this community, proud to serve it and consider what we do to be more than just work.”

Of course, many consider the police uniform to be an outward expression of that pride and connection. That is because uniforms are the ultimate communicator of image and authority; the right look can bolster confidence while a poor selection can leave a negative impression about the department in the public’s mind. “They’re also a symbol of trust,” adds Jones. “We’re the go-to people in a crisis; [we’re] there if they need us.”

About four years ago, Covington’s uniform program underwent an overhaul. It wasn’t that anything was particularly wrong with the old program. The uniforms were functional basic dark navy attire, patterned after those worn by the LAPD. But they lacked the identity the connection to the city and to the region it calls home. “We wanted to increase visibility and become more associated with this area of Kentucky,” explains Jones.

Covington is the largest city in Northern Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. It is within 600 miles of 60 percent of the United States population, 58 percent of the country’s manufacturing firms and 59 percent of the nation’s purchasing power. Although commonly thought to be a Midwestern state, Northern Kentucky is often referred to as the Gateway to the South due to its proximity to the Mason-Dixon Line. “If you’re heading south, this is the way to go,” says Jones.

Chief RussoThe uniforms’ redesign was spearheaded by the arrival of Col. Lee Russo, the first outsider named Covington Chief of Police in more than 100 years. Russo hailed from Maryland, where he oversaw an urban department of more than 2,000 officers.

Right away Chief Russo took on a number of new initiatives, one of which involved the sprucing up of the department’s uniform program. Covington’s navy uniforms came from different dye lots, resulting in various shades of blue and a less-than-professional look. Strict adherence to uniform specifications and regular inspections quickly resolved that problem. The chief even instituted a “hats on” policy, requiring officers to wear their Air Force-styled hats at all times when on duty.

“Officers previously left their hats in patrol cars, which the chief felt diminished the overall look,” says Gene Terry, who has managed the Covington PD account for Roy Tailors for the past nine years.

Then there was the indistinguishable nature of the uniform; it was basic, a look easily found at city departments across the country. Both the department and its new chief wanted uniforms that would be easily recognized, and garments that reflected ties to the community and the rich history of the region.

This was accomplished in several ways. A blue stripe boarded in gold was added to the pant leg signifying the “thin blue line” that stands between police and law-abiding citizens. On the right sleeve of duty uniforms, a royal blue patch was added. The state seal appears in the center, and the phrase “Gateway to the South” is embroidered on the lower half.

Police have always been denoted by some form of identification, and over time, many such classifications evolve. However, the past can hold strong for certain elements. Such is the case of the Covington PD’s new badge.

Lt. JonesThe badge actually isn’t new at all it is a replica of those that were worn in the 1900s. Lt. Col. Jones elaborates: “A former Kenton County jailer was clearing out his belongings when he came across a Covington police badge from the beginning of last century. He passed it on to me, and I found out that the company that had manufactured the badge was still around. Not only that, but they had the hand-cut dies used to stamp it.”

In the shape of a shield, which symbolizes the police officer as a protector of the peace and the people, the badge features Covington’s seal with the department’s four values from its mission statement integrity, professionalism, justice and compassion engraved on the back. “It’s worn over the heart and evokes pride in our community and the work we do,” says Jones.

And what of the generic badges Covington had used since 1973? “They were retired, given to each officer as a gift,” notes Jones.

The city of Covington provides the initial issue uniform, meaning that new officers don’t need to purchase their own attire. To maintain its professional appearance, each of Covington’s 116 sworn officers receives an annual $650 cash allowance for upkeep and maintenance, with any unused funds rolling over to the next year.

Their basic uniform, manufactured by Fechheimer, is made from 100 percent easy-care VISA polyester, a fabric that defies wrinkles and stains.

Although the uniforms can be home laundered, Lt. Col. Jones says that many, including himself, prefer to have the garments dry cleaned. “You just can’t beat the look of sharp, crisp creases,” he adds. Recently, Covington PD has allowed its officers to purchase Fechheimer uniforms made with ColdBlack fabric. ColdBlack is a type of fabric that keeps the body cooler and protected when the officer is working directly in the sun.

Though looking good is equally important to female officers, the standard has been hard to achieve. In the past, most uniforms were not made with feminine shapes in mind. In Covington, female officers can achieve that professional appearance in trousers specifically designed for them. Not a modified men’s pant, the trouser features a contoured waistband, shortened rise and tapered leg for a look that is comfortable and first rate. It’s a practical garment as well. Since the trouser sits at the natural waist, it provides better access to duty belts and weapons.

Of course, issues surrounding fit plague both male and female officers alike, which is why the relationship between a department and its local uniform vendor is so important. “I’m not an off-the-rack type of guy,” says Jones. “I depend on alterations to get the right look.”

Roy TailorsHelping officers project that just-right image is what Roy Tailors Uniform Co. has been doing for more than 50 years. Unlike other businesses, there’s little turnover at this Cincinnati-based dealer. Its seasoned staff provides the knowledgeable assistance more commonly found at upscale boutiques and high-end retailers.

Roy Tailors Uniform Co. is conveniently located less than two miles from downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, right next to Interstate 75, a major north/south highway. In 2001, under the guidance of its president, Randy B. Loftspring, Roy Tailors custom built a 22,500-square-foot building with approximately 6,500 square feet devoted to retail floor space. The warehouse has 30-foot ceilings and utilizes a stock picker to retrieve inventory kept above 12 feet.

Roy Tailors not only supplies public safety uniforms and equipment; it also is a major uniform supplier to the U.S. Postal Service and serves the corporate and hospitality uniform markets as well. Additionally, Roy Tailors has a comparable setup in Columbus, Ohio, that operates in a similarly designed building as Cincinnati.

Roy TailorsAs with all departments, tailoring and other modifications for the Covington PD are done in house. “Each officer has a different need, and we work with them on an individual basis,” notes Terry. A large and well-stocked inventory assures that orders can be filled quickly.

There are specialized units within the Covington PD, and each has its own look. The bike patrol wears performance apparel manufactured by Mocean; the SWAT team is issued tactical wear made by 5.11. There’s even a Class C, a so-called “soft” uniform of khakis and polos that is worn by non-sworn personnel.

The department’s Honor Guard uniform is one of the more distinguishing outfits. Officers wear plain, Class A trousers and long-sleeve shirt topped with a white jacket that has a navy high collar. It’s a real stand out, according to Lt. Col Jones. “People know who we are when we wear it,” he adds.

And they know that the Covington PD is a department proud of itself and its community no matter what uniform is worn. “We consider ourselves part of the city, rather than just a department in the city,” says Jones.

Above story first appeared in MADE TO MEASURE Magazine, Spring & Summer 2011 issue. All rights reserved. Photos appear by special permission.
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