In effort to change militarized perception, SWAT team will get new uniforms


The Minneapolis Police Department's SWAT team is going to look a little different.

The department announced Monday it will be changing the color of the uniforms the SWAT team wears "to address public perception of a militarized look."

“We’ve heard comments both locally here this past fall with some of the protests we’ve had up at the Fourth Precinct,” Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher told WCCO. “Some of the comments are the militarized look of the police.”

Officials say it won't be eliminating any necessary equipment, it will just be changing the color of the uniforms from the military green color (pictured below) to traditional police colors of dark blue and black (pictured above).

"Understandably, the equipment which the SWAT team carries is tactical in appearance and necessary for their job, so changing the color alone may not fully change perception," the release says.

Minneapolis police say it's a "small step" to proactively address the public's concerns and improve the perception of the department, while still protecting officers.

The department will begin switching out uniforms and equipment in the coming months, with some of the equipment being transitioned in over the next two to three years.

Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson Scott Seroka told BringMeTheNews it will cost less than $50,000 for roughly 60 new uniforms, and they'll be paid for out of the department's general operating fund.

A look at the militarization of police

Criticism of the militarization of police has made headlines in recent years in the wake of several fatal shootings of unarmed black men by police. In some incidents, especially in Ferguson, Missouri, police responded to protests wth military-style vehicles and heavy equipment.

This prompted organizations like the ACLU to call for a change. The group says "sending a heavily armed team of officers to perform 'normal' police work can dangerously escalate situations that need never have involved violence," and also make it seem like police are "at war" with communities, rather then keeping them safe.

In response to the national outcry of police militarization, President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing made several recommendations, including having police departments create policies that "minimize the appearance of a military operation" when responding to incidents as to not "undermine civilian trust."

Using "soft look" uniforms, the report says, is one way to minimize confrontation.

"When officers line up in a military formation while wearing full protective gear, their visual appearance may have a dramatic influence on how the crowd perceives them and how the event ends," the report says.

More on Minneapolis' SWAT team

The Minneapolis Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team is made up of a group of officers who have specialized training to deal with "virtually any threat," the release says.

Most of the members on the SWAT team have regular full-time duties as patrol officers and sergeants in the department, but volunteer for SWAT service, the city's website says. When a situation arises that a regular officer wouldn't be able to handle safely or the risk to the public is especially high, they are called into assist, the release notes.

They carry special equipment that officials say helps them do their job, while protecting themselves and the public.

The SWAT team has four specialized units: entry, gas/munitions, communications/logistics and rifle. There are also non-tactical components to the team, including the crisis negotiation team and the technical support team.

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