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DeSoto Sheriff’s Dept. Calls on At Work for Sharp New Look

Bordered on the west by rich delta farmland and the Mississippi River, DeSoto County is located as far north as a person can go in Mississippi without landing in Tennessee. With a population topping 100,000 and growing, the county consists of five municipalities: Southaven, Horn Lake, Olive Branch, Village of Memphis and the county seat of Hernando.

DeSoto County is named not for the car but for the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto, who traveled through this area in the early 1540s. The county is mostly industrial with a small part agricultural. Small family farms have disappeared, and subdivisions sit where cotton once grew.

At least two famous Mississippians have spent time in DeSoto County. Elvis Presley rode horses at his ranch on Goodman Road and rode his motorcycle along the county’s roads. Best-selling author John Grisham practiced law in and served as State Representative for DeSoto County.

The DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department, located in the city of Hernando, is charged with keeping the peace in the 2,000-square-mile area. Bill Rasco serves as DeSoto County’s Sheriff, with Frank Rainey as its Chief Deputy.

It’s common for a new top official to bring changes to his or her department, and Rasco is no exception. After his election, he wanted the members of his department to have new uniforms. It was more than time for a new look.

Employees of the sheriff’s department “had worn the old uniforms for over 20 years,” Rainey says. “Everybody hated them. They were brown, generic, like those worn by all of the sheriffs’ departments in Mississippi.”

After the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department put out a call for bids to supply new uniforms, its contract was awarded to At Work Uniforms’ Memphis Store.

Store Manager Sasha Ennis, Regional Sales Manager Nancie Weems and their At Work team outfitted all of the employees in the sheriff’s department’s seven units: Corrections, School Resource, Dispatch, Motorcycle, K-9, Bailiffs and Patrol.

Weems attributes receiving this large order to “bidding competitively and having high-quality products.”

Not only did At Work Uniforms fill the order for 215 uniforms three, with emblems, for each employee it did it in less than three weeks.

“They placed the order Oct. 1 [2008], and we delivered the third week of October,” Ennis explains.

Weems adds, “We considered it a feat that we turned the whole department around in new uniforms in such a short period of time. Without the inside people we have here working so hard, we never could have accomplished this.”

The most visible uniforms in this department are those worn by DeSoto County’s patrol officers and bailiffs. Officers in both divisions wear identical uniforms of black shirts and charcoal gray pants, which have black stripes down the side seams. Made by Horace Small, the pants are 100 percent polyester.

The pants are traditional patrol style no buckles so that the officer can attach gun, mace, magazines, flashlight and other equipment at waist level. The waists of the pants are Velcro adjustable with an over belt and an inner belt. Black leather basketweave belts give a professional appearance. Women officers wear the same style pants, but the cut is modified for a better fit.

The DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department also chose Horace Small for its unisex, seven-button shirts for the two divisions. These crisp black shirts have two button-flap chest pockets. Officers have both short-sleeve and long-sleeve versions so they can be comfortable in different seasons.

Officers in the motorcycle division, also highly visible to the public, wear this same uniform with one difference. Their pants are black with charcoal gray stripes down the side seams.

Department employees wear this uniform year round, but even in Mississippi, it can get cold during the winter months. Officers in the patrol, bailiff and motorcycle divisions as well as others who have to work outside don warm, black Duty Jackets. Made by 5.11 Tactical, this waterproof, windproof jacket (style 48040) has a seam-sealed 100 percent nylon oxford shell. Its waterproof capability comes courtesy of a polyurethane coating and a water-repellant finish.

The body of the jacket has a cozy 100 percent polyester fleece lining, 240-gram weight. The sleeves, lined with 210 T nylon taffeta to prevent shirt sleeves from catching, are insulated with 100 percent polyester needle-punched 120-gram fiber insulation.

The Duty Jacket follows traditional law enforcement styling. Features include full center front storm flap, epaulets, a badge tab, waist-length cut and side zippers. The traditional style collar allows rank insignia to be displayed. Front patch pockets with bellows and a sleeve pocket allow an officer to stow gear yet have it easily reachable. The sleeve pocket closes with a 6-inch zipper and a covered welt opening. On the inside of the left side of the Duty Jacket is a zippered security pocket.

The Back-Up Belt System with hidden chest pockets and bi-swing shoulders give the wearer both ease of movement and a tailored fit. The Duty Jacket’s back waist is half elasticized. The sides have duty belt access zippers with 12 inch double sliders inset into the lower side seams. Snap closure tabs add security. The Duty Jacket has YKK zippers to stand up to lots of use. Hidden hand warmer pockets are reverse-pleated, open at both the tops and sides, and lined with 100 percent polyester tricot. Sleeve cuffs are half elasticized using 2-inch elastic. Tabs and Velcro allow adjustable closure.

DeSoto County’s employees in the corrections, dispatch, and school resource divisions all wear short-sleeve polo shirts made by Horace Small. These shirts are a 60/40 cotton/poly blend. The Dri Balance Technology fabric “gives superior breathability and absorption,” Ennis says.

Corrections and school resource employees have black shirts. Dispatch employees wear navy shirts. They all wear Propper brand cotton/poly Tactical Pants (style F5220-82) in khaki. These cargo-style pants have multiple pockets.

K-9 officers wear Tru Spec Basic Daily Uniforms in a light “Army” green. The tactical-type pants are poly/cotton. Their matching shirts have long sleeves that are easily rolled up.

At Work supplied the Rocky 2081 boots for employees in the K-9 division and the Rocky 2090 boots for employees in all other divisions.

The distinctive DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department shirt patch is in black and charcoal to match the uniforms. On the patch, the U.S. and State of Mississippi flags are in the center, behind the American eagle. At the bottom of the patch are the words “Honor” and “Integrity” with a star between them. The design is uncluttered and clearly visible from a distance.

Reaction to the new uniforms has been positive. Rainey says the employees “love them. They appreciate the change” from what they had been wearing. Members of the public seem to like the sheriff’s department’s new uniforms, too. “We’ve heard only good; nothing negative,” Rainey adds.

Filling orders like the one from DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department is just part of the regular business for the people who work at the Memphis At Work store. They make every effort to provide customers with uniforms they’ll be proud to wear but that are also a good value for the cost. That’s especially important in current economic conditions.

“Uniforms have always been a part of my life,” Ennis says. “My grandfather, Charles Campbell, started Uniform Rental Service years ago, and then my father, Chuck Campbell, started At Work Uniforms in 1991.”

After graduating from the University of Alabama in 2006, Ennis decided “to give the company a try and see if I would be a good fit, and I have loved it ever since.” She has also worked in At Work’s Irondale, Ala., warehouse facility doing outside selling in the Birmingham area.

Ennis enjoys “working in the industry and learning what a small world the uniform business really is.” She says, “I feel fortunate that I have been given the opportunities to learn our industry inside and out, which I continue to do on a daily basis.”

Even though Ennis has been store manager at Memphis only since December 2008, she has learned that “When you really understand the environment that you work in and enjoy it as well as help make a difference, the job becomes satisfying and very rewarding.”

Working with Weems has put Ennis on the fast track for managing a retail uniform business. Weems will soon change roles to spend all of her time visiting in person with existing customers and finding new ones.

Weems began her career when she started her own business in Jackson, Miss., in 1977. She and her partner in a gun business “got nudged into the uniform end of it because of our customer service.”

After closing the store because of her partner’s ill health, Weems moved to Memphis and worked for Martin’s Uniforms as a store manager. Eventually she went into outside uniform sales.

The best part of working in the uniform industry for Weems is “taking care of the customer seeing them pleased with the product, pricing and customer service.” The hardest part, she says, is “trying to stay on top of the changes and keeping all of the customers informed of any new products and the latest technology.”

Opened in 2004, the 6,000-square-foot store has an urban location and seven employees. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Including security companies, 99 percent of Memphis At Work’s sales are for law enforcement/public safety uniforms and related merchandise. The store offers embroidery and emblems, thanks to seamstresses who work at the company’s Irondale, Ala., headquarters facility.

At Work Uniforms
4692 American Way
Memphis, TN 38118
(901) 360-1390
www.atworkuniforms.com