Yeah, that's the ticket - Nampa cops sport shorts

Uniform change breaks tradition but is welcomed.

kterhune@idahostatesman.comJuly 19, 2013 

nampa police, shorts, hot weather, uniform

Nampa Officer Dan Wyatt prepares to enter his patrol car Friday after leaving his department’s headquarters. With temperatures near or in the 100s in the Treasure Valley in the heart of summertime, the ability to wear shorts is seen as a cool change by many on the police force.

KYLE GREEN — Buy Photo

Dan Wyatt, a Nampa police officer, knows working in the patrol division isn't always comfortable. Officers might have to stand in the hot sun for long periods of time at the site of a car accident, or sprint after a fleeing suspect.

So in a month that has set one record for high temperatures already, he's grateful for his new wardrobe.

"I hope it catches on, because I sure enjoy wearing the shorts," Wyatt said.

Police Chief Craig Kingsbury's decision to allow officers to forgo the traditional long-pants uniform went into effect July 3.

With shorts now an option, a number of officers have embraced them amid yet another Treasure Valley heat wave. The high was 103 on Friday, and it will be weeks before daytime temperatures dip below 90.

That's why the cooler gear is especially popular with day-shift officers. Sgt. Tim Randall estimated that about half of the day crew has opted for shorts.

"So far, especially in this heat, the guys really like them," Randall said.

Kingsbury and Deputy Chief Brad Daniels each donned uniform shorts while working at the God and Country Festival in Nampa earlier this month.

"They're comfy," Wyatt said.

Previously, hot temperatures could quickly become a problem for officers when they had to be outside for extended periods, he said.

Randall agreed.

"We're wearing a dark blue uniform, everybody's wearing a bulletproof vest," he said. "We can get hot and overheated really quick in those things."

As the heavy vests soak up heat from the sun, officers can begin to feel as if they have heating pads strapped to their chests, he said.

Wyatt especially appreciated the new uniform during July's initial heat wave, when temperatures reached 110 and remained in the triple digits for days.

Some officers in the department remain loyal to the more traditional look. But for Wyatt, beating the heat was worth the departure from convention.

"It makes a world of difference for comfort and coolness," he said. "I know that other officers have been pushing for it quite a bit."

Typically, only bicycle patrol officers and marine officers were allowed to wear shorts, Randall said.

"There's a lot of tradition behind police uniforms, and this is kind of a break from that," he said.

Previous Nampa police chiefs refused to consider modifying the department's patrol uniform, he said. But Kingsbury, who was sworn in as chief in January, was open to the idea.

Kingsbury said the safety and comfort of the officers was the deciding factor in the uniform move.

Randall said the department has received a positive response to the decision. He pitched the idea on Facebook, posting a photo of officers in the new gear to gauge the public's reaction. The post garnered more than 60 comments from people enthusiastic about the look or warning about a sock tan.

Only a handful of commenters said they preferred the uniform with long pants.

"They need to be comfortable in the heat in order to do their jobs effectively, so I'm all for it," Cassandra Treat wrote on the post.

"Those guys are probably so happy," Cesar Gonzalez added.

Randall said Nampa could become a trendsetter. The department is among the first in the area to implement a regular uniform option with shorts.

Randall said the move could provide impetus for other area police.

"That's typically how a lot of things happen in law enforcement: Somebody else does it, and you kind of see how it looks, and how it goes over, and how it works," he said. "A lot of things we do we pick up from other agencies, so I think there's a possibility for that."

Katie Terhune: 377-6219

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