British Bobbies have their easily recognizable helmets, and
American state troopers have their “Smokey the Bear” hats. Traditionally, Germany’s
modern police have worn peaked police hats, a concept that has identified them
as police officers. The peaked front of the hat was reminiscent of the peaked
fronts of Roman legionnaires’ helmets and represented authority.
Although the basic German police uniforms have evolved over
the years, the peaked hat concept remained. Recently, however, their uniform
has undergone a more dramatic change, and some German police have switched to
blue eight-pointers, something that has not been universally popular with
American police officers, who often refer to them as servitude milkman hats. Germany’s
Brandenburg State Police and Hamburg State Police have adopted eight-pointer police
has 16 federal states, each with its own history and the right to police itself.
This independence was often reflected in their uniforms. For example, the city
police of Worms wore leather jackets and high-top jack boots, while the state
police of their federal state, Rhineland-Palatinate, wore green cloth uniforms
and jackets, and plain-toed, low-quarter shoes. In Bavaria,
the Augsburg city police wore brown leather
jackets and high jack boots, while in the northern city-state of Hamburg the cops wore
blue. Even so, all wore the recognizable peaked hats.
In the years following World War II, there were a number of
police reforms. These included incorporating all of the various local police
forces into state police forces for each federal German state. In 1972, the police departments were reorganized. At this
time, all German state police forces and the federal border police (Bundesgrenzschutz)
introduced a new, common police uniform with moss green
jackets and ocher (dark yellowish brown) pants. This uniform was designed by
the famous fashion designer Heinz Oestergaard.
Then in 1998, a committee of the
European Parliament and representatives of all members of the European unit
decided to make police uniforms a standardized, dark blue color in Europe regardless of the country. Thus, the change to a
blue uniform in Germany began. The Hamburg State Police and the Federal Police,
Bundespolizei, were the first agencies to introduce the blue uniform in 2004/2005.
Most of the state and federal police are wearing blue,
accompanied by the eight-pointer in some states or the traditional peaked hat
in other states. One exception involves the state police of the most
conservative federal German state, the Bavarian State Police; they have not
changed their uniform and remain with their moss green and ocher uniforms. While
the uniforms have changed, efforts are being made to retain the previous
Rhine-Westphalia Go Blue
Two everyday police uniforms were developed in this area,
one version for field and another for the office. The designs for both had to
be functional as well as recognizable. It was also decided that new uniforms
would be designed, and they would not copy those already in service in another
country or federal German state police agency.
The North Rhine-Westphalia State Police force began its
investment in new uniforms by testing them for suitability for daily wear. A
total of 1,400 police officers from the cities of Bielefeld, Krefeld and
Mettmann wore the new uniforms on duty for 10 months. Ill-fitting uniforms had
to be exchanged within three days of issue. Whether the police officer was on
duty in the heat of his patrol car, at night in the rain on a highway, or in
pursuit of a fugitive, the uniform had to withstand the rigors of active police
Of concern when evaluating the uniform were comfort,
visibility and safety, the ability to withstand the stresses of daily police
service, and citizen acceptance. Did the modern lightweight, breathable
materials function for both the public and the police officers equally well,
and contribute to the improvement of police work? Were the new uniforms
distinguishable from other uniforms? Did they meet affordability concerns?
Ergonomic features that were considered included the fit and
freedom of movement, as well as whether the new uniform would accommodate
equipment worn. And while uniforms for both men and women were made to look the
same outwardly, changes were made to accommodate differences in male/female
body shapes. The physiological functions tested included thermal comfort,
wicking of sweat away from the body, and how the uniform felt on the wearers’
Also taken into consideration was the fact that the new
uniforms, as was the case with previous uniforms, have reduced thermal comfort
due to ballistic protection. When the 10 months were over, the testing officers
filled out evaluation questionnaires with the help of the police Internet
system. Individual parts of the uniform were rated on a scale of one to six,
with one being the highest score. The feedback from the police and public was
very positive, and the police gave the uniform an overall score of 2.1 for
function, quality and wearability.
Testers were also asked how they would improve the uniform,
and their suggestions were taken seriously. As a result, to counteract the
somewhat low score for uniform recognition, the word “Polizei” and reflectors
were added to the uniform. In addition, the testing also led to improved pocket
openings, extra interior pockets for the duty jacket, additional dirt repellent
in the trouser material, and improved collar design to the shirts and blouses.
The clothing was judged to be to be practical and contemporary for North
Rhine-Westphalia’s policeman and policewomen. For easy recognition, the white
peaked hat has been modified and preserved, with reflective tabs added for
better officer visibility in the dark.
According to Polizeioberkommissar (police lieutenant) Rainer
Schlemmer, the Bundespolizei uniform was issued to the federal police posted to
years ago. Bundespolizei are the German federal police and include the border
patrol and those police officers who patrol the airports and railroad system.
Obtaining the uniforms was organized by LHD Professional Equipment Services.
This equipment service also supplies the Bundeswehr (German federal defense
force, Army, Navy, and Air Force) and their administration and procurement
With the exception of the federal police stationed in Berlin, the reaction of
the population to the new blue police uniforms has been good. In Berlin, however, there
is a private security force responsible for the security of the local
transportation system, subways, and commuter trains, who also wear blue
uniforms, so the federal police changed their new uniform jackets to include
the word “Polizei” in white lettering on the back. At first the federal police
officers were skeptical about their new uniforms, but now the officers have
accepted and like them.
Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, Ohio
Police Department and a frequent contributor to LAW and ORDER. Mickey
Davis is a California-based writer and author.