By John Savageau
The average resident or visitor might not immediately notice, but the Burbank Police Department (BPD) is making a lot of changes to their uniforms, patrol cars, motorcycles, and safety equipment.
According to Lt. Jay Hawver, BPD Traffic Bureau, change is normal, and “we are in the process of contemporizing the designs of our uniforms, cars, patches, and other items.”
The first visible change most in Burbank will notice is the gradual retirement of aging Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars with the familiar gold hash marks overlayed by a large blue POLICE imprint. Those cars are gradually being replaced by new Chevrolets with a sleek blue, silver, and black “Burbank Police” logo.
Lt Hawver noted “the new design provides a unique, professional appearance, easily recognizable by anybody in the city.” Captain Ron Caruso, BPD Support Services Division, was instrumental in the new design, although Lt. Hawver is quick to point out the design is the result of an effort and input from many officers.
That point is reinforced by Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse. “The new image is a local effort. All designs and much of the actual work was done locally,” including producing and affixing the logos on patrol cars. All new patrol cars will have the contemporary design, as the older model cars are retired from service.
Burbank Police motorcycles are also being updated with the same basic design. In addition, motorcycle officers will have new helmets, as well as uniform upgrades such as Kevlar trousers – all intended to provide both better utility and protection to officers.
“We are constantly evaluating equipment being adopted by other police agencies around the country, and bringing the best ideas back to Burbank for local evaluation” explained Lt. Hawver. “While it might be easy for police departments to become stymied by traditions, including uniform traditions, we need to always consider what is best for the officers.”
Another change to the Burbank Police image is the distinctive shoulder patch. The current patch has been used by the BPD, with minor variations, since the mid-1940s. The patch shows an image of the Burbank City Hall, which over time has gradually blurred, making it nearly impossible for anybody to recognize.
With the help of Lt. Will Berry (Ret), a project was launched in 2009 to consider a replacement for the old gold and blue patch. “Nothing was off the table” recalled Lt. Hawver. Police patch designs from all over California, and the country were reviewed, and lots of ideas considered, including potentially using events in history, the aviation and entertainment industries, the Verdugo Mountains and other concepts.
In the end, an officer uniform committee was formed, and all ideas and potential designs for the patch were evaluated. The officers wanted something unique to Burbank, something that brought them closer to the community, showed authority and strength, as well as professionalism. All officers volunteering for the uniform committee were accepted, with the idea the more ideas and opinions engaged in the selection process, the final design would be a much better product.
BPD officers have been authorized to wear the new design since 2012. The design retains the image of Burbank City Hall, with a much cleaner graphic image provided by Lt. Berry. With a silver border and text on a black background border, the improved city hall image is topped by a deep blue sky. One interesting note – the clock located on the city hall tower is actually a copyright symbol. BPD actually has a copyright for the logo, which is pretty remarkable.
Lt. Hawver stated the final selection ”is all about professionalism. We want to best represent the City of Burbank, and show that we (BPD) are the highest caliber. Our new patch does that, presenting a high level of security and trust to the city.”
In 2012 the BPD also changed the officer’s shield, or badge. Following a year of wearing the “Centennial Badge,” a new shield was authorized to replace the old shield, which had been in service for many years. The new design, as explained by Lt. Berry, needed to both strongly convey authority as a police officer, but still “reflect our uniqueness” as a police department. “We wanted to modernize our image without walking away from tradition” continued Lt. Berry.
The last major change is with officer uniforms. BPD has used the standard dark blue wool uniform for many years, as is fairly standard for police departments around California. However, as with the motorcycle uniforms, times change, and better alternatives became available – in specific the “5.11” police uniform combination.
According to Lt. Hawver, the 5.11 uniform combination, including shirts and trousers, offer a lot of function benefits to officers. Those include a much more robust material, additional flexibility, lower cost, and additional officer protection. While a departure from the traditional wool materials, the 5.11 uniform still allows officers to taper the uniforms and provide a very professional appearance, while eliminating many of the endurance and maintenance shortfalls of wool.
Chief LaChasse emphasized “this is a local project. The team contributing to the designs were all from within the department, and procurement of materials was primarily done within the community.”
Keep your eyes open for the new cars, patches, badges, and uniforms. If you have any questions or comments on the changes, send a note to the department through the BPD website, or direct feedback link.