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Wall Township PD is Class A All the Way

The Wall Township, N.J., Police Department doesnt believe in change for its own sake, a fact that is reflected in part by its uniform program.

Weve been supplying them since the 70s, and its more or less the same uniform, notes Bruce Klein of Red the Uniform Tailor (RTUT), a New Jersey-based distributor and manufacturer of law enforcement, career apparel and industrial uniforms.

The uniform hasnt changed since Ive been here, says Sgt. Christopher Tango. Thats because were happy with what we have.

Complete satisfaction is a sentiment rarely heard these days in some uniform markets. In an age where technology can determine if a garment stretches, fades or wrinkles, todays uniform customers are becoming decidedly more choosey about the vast amount of options at their disposal.

Not so at Wall Township. The uniform we have is in the best interest of the department and community, and were proud of it, says Tango.

What it is most proud of is its appearance. Wall Township Police Department has shunned the trend by some departments to adopt a Class B uniform, opting instead to remain in its formal and highly polished Class A outfits. We have three shifts, and each wears a Class A, notes Tango. Its Class A 24/7.

Class A and B Uniforms:
Function vs. Fashion?

The debate over whether to switch to the less formal Class B uniform for everyday looks has raged in departments and on police blogs across the country for quite some time. Proponents argue that Class B uniforms, typically BDU-styled garments complete with cargo pockets, are more appropriate for the duties that are expected of law enforcement agencies in a post-Sept. 11 world.

Class A uniforms have a place, so the argument goes, such as when you are at a public function where you need to present a sharp professional image, but for the normal day-to-day down-and-dirty aspect of police work, BDUs are more practical. They wear well, hold up to rough treatment that would destroy Class As, are easy to keep clean and are cheaper to replace when they do get ripped or dinged. Besides, do members of the Armed Forces wear their Class As in the field? Function over fashion is the battle cry for Class B supporters.

Those who argue against the Class B for everyday wear insist that the issue isnt about fashion at all; its professionalism that matters most. How you are dressed will impact how you are perceived, says Tango. A well-dressed officer will command respect because he is seen as professional, as a person of authority, and this is true whether walking the beat during the day or working the nightshift.

Klein adds, Officers are actually seen as more authoritative if they are wearing their Class As.

Klein also notes that a departments geographic location is a determining factor in its level of interest in Class Bs. The Class B look is really a Northeast and urban phenomenon, he says. In areas where violent crime is a major issue or for large city departments, the Class B is considered appropriate and more user-friendly. You really dont see much of the Class Bs in smaller, suburban and rural departments, because the need for such garments isnt as great.

The Wall Township PD Look
Located in Monmouth County, N.J., Wall Township has a population of 25,261, according to the United States 2000 Census. Monmouth County itself offers a world of activities. It has 27 miles of pristine ocean beaches, an array of historic sites, two of the nations best racetracks, deep sea and freshwater fishing, shopping and numerous upscale restaurants.

In recent years, thanks in large part to the countys position on the Jersey Shore and its location within commuting distance of New York City, the population and cost of living have been skyrocketing. Those moving in have the income levels to match that high cost of living. In fact, Monmouth County ranks 42nd among the highest-income counties in the United States with a per capita income of $31,149.

Because of its jurisdiction over an area with little violent crime, Wall Township PDs main concern centers on traffic congestion due to its proximity to the shoreline. Its a big problem out here, particularly in the summer when vacationers and weekend travelers buzz through, notes Tango. A traffic circle in town adds to the congestion.

The departments relationship with the community is a solid one, according to Tango. We have an open door policy with the public, he says. We focus on problem solving and have our officers follow through with the community member after the initial response. Tango firmly believes that the Wall Township uniform plays an important role in its responsibilities. It is highly regarded by both the department and the community.

The 72-member department utilizes a summer and winter uniform, and has specialized wear for its K-9, Special Response Team, EMS and Motor Units. Command personnel wear the same uniform as the rank and file. We believe a complete uniformed look enhances our appearance, adds Tango.

Daily inspections are conducted to ensure that the appearance remains unblemished. The sergeant in charge reviews the officers at the start of each shift. We also encourage each officer to be well groomed and physically fit, adds Tango.

In summer, officers wear a nickel gray short-sleeve shirt affixed with the departments official patch. Although a tie isnt worn during the warmer months, a white crew-neck undershirt is required to be worn per the departments written specifications.

Trousers are dark blue and are striped in gray. RTUT has long manufactured the garments using a blend of 55 percent polyester and 45 percent wool. We use an elastique weave, which is very strong and makes the garment more durable, notes Klein. Its what youd find at state police departments.

For winter, a long-sleeve, tropical weight dark blue shirt is worn with a gray tie and tie clasp. Black outerwear and reversible raingear is also used during inclement weather. No matter the season, everyone is issued a high-visibility embroidered vest so that officers can be seen and adequately protected during those aforementioned traffic jams.

Of the more unusual features found in Wall Townships program is its headwear. Manufactured by Alboum, the sheriffs style hat is colored in white. It certainly sets them apart from other departments in the area, notes Klein.

Were proud of it, says Tango of the hat. It easily identifies us in the community and has generated many positive comments throughout the years. Through an agreement with local dry cleaners, Wall Township has all its uniform garments cleaned on an as-needed basis all, that is, with the exception of the pristine hat. The individual officer is responsible for its care and is issued a special covering to assure its well maintained, says Tango.

While its basic uniform hasnt changed much over the years, the department has added a Class B uniform that is worn by its K-9 division. Its an appropriate uniform for field operations, but isnt necessary for day-to-day activities, notes Tango.

The BDU-like pant is colored in navy, and has a one and one-half inch Dacron/rayon stripe down its side and top of the pocket. A coordinating gray shirt affixed with a name strip instead of a metal nametag is worn with the trousers.

Besides Alboum, other suppliers to this program include Blauer Manufacturing, Taylors Leatherwear and Bates Shoe.

Quality and Service Matter
As for cost, the department spends about $45,000 annually on its uniform needs, a sum which Klein says is typical for police agencies of its size. Theyre a pretty average department in terms of expenditures, even though theyre not wearing off-the-rack uniforms, insists Klein. The program actually runs them less over the long term because of its quality.

To ensure that each officer and new recruits maintain a polished appearance, RTUT provides an on-site fitting service. Tango says, Theyll come down to us and do measurements on our schedule. A smart-looking, well-tailored uniform is one key ingredient to the success of any police officer, and Red the Uniform Tailor provides a service that helps assure that we look good at all times.

Klein explains, We view ourselves as a customer service-centered business rather than a company that sells uniforms or widgets. This philosophy is why weve had Wall Township and other departments as customers for so long.

Service also plays a role in RTUTs decision to eschew some of the more popular performance fabrics currently on the market. Weve tried to incorporate some of these into various programs, but they dont hold up well, says Klein.

Klein believes that while those fabrics have their place, theres another and perhaps more important component driving comfort. You need to talk with the customer to figure out how the uniform will be used. Unfortunately this doesnt occur as much as it used to. We communicate through email, rather than face-to-face contact, says Klein. Its all in how the customer is fit.

Tango agrees. Our Class A uniforms are sharp and comfortable. Its a good program, and were proud of it.

Our Class A uniforms are sharp and comfortable.
Its a good program, and were proud of it.

Sgt. Christopher Tango
Wall Township PD

Above story first appeared in MADE TO MEASURE Magazine, Fall & Winter 2007 issue. All rights reserved. Photos appear by special permission.
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