The light blue uniforms worn by Lexington police officers for the last several decades will be phased out in the coming months, replaced with a more modern and less formal style.
The new "midnight blue" uniforms were unveiled to the public Thursday at a graduation ceremony for 31 police recruits who recently finished the department's internal training academy and will take to the streets on supervised patrols next week.
The recruits are the first to wear the new style of uniform, but all police officers are expected to make the transition by July 15, Police Chief Ronnie Bastin said during the ceremony at Tates Creek Christian Church.
"Uniforms will be mixed and matched for about three months, until we have a chance to get everyone into them," he said.
Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said the public unveiling was not for the sake of putting on a "fashion show," but to familiarize the public with the new uniforms, which are much darker in color and have other subtle differences.
"We want people to recognize the uniform — that this is the Lexington Division of Police," she said. "I think people have a lot of consternation and concern when they interact with a police officer whose uniform they don't recognize."
The current French blue uniforms — dubbed simply the "French blues" by officers — are heavy and hard to keep clean. Roberts said the department decided to replace them after an internal survey revealed a majority of officers were unhappy with them.
The new uniforms are made from lighter material and allow for better mobility. It's easier to keep them looking sharp.
"They were really made with officers' comfort in mind, something they weren't necessarily thinking about in decades past when they designed uniforms," Roberts said.
They also cost less. The shirt and pants cost $142, compared to about $180 for the old uniform set, she said. The department contracted with Galls for the new uniforms, which are manufactured by Blauer.
Officers will buy their uniforms with a $500 yearly stipend. They can buy extra uniforms out of pocket.
Features include sewn-in safety reflectors, holes for ear pieces, tabs to clip a microphone and more pockets. The patch on the sleeves was redesigned.
Bastin, who sported a midnight blue uniform during the ceremony, said this was the most drastic alteration to the division's uniforms since the city-county merger in 1974.
Recruits said they approved of the change after hearing stories of how hard the French blues were to maintain.
"We feel lucky that we're some of the first ones who have been seen in the uniforms, and we want to wear it proud," new Ofc. Kristin Moore said.