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Funny Hats And Real Guns

July 2024
1min read

Those who remember Thomas J.Fleming’s “The Policeman’s Lot,” which we published in February, 1970, may recall that the author quoted from a then-recent issue of a newsmagazine to the effect that “the average cop feels that he is unappreciated or even actively disliked by the public he serves.” In the article, Fleming went on to note, among other things, that just such a sense of alienation has always been the policeman’s lot, by the very nature of his job.

Undoubtedly, that will continue to be the case for years to come—although possibly not for all policemen everywhere. In Seattle’s Pioneer Square district, for example, six patrolmen and one sergeant have been decked out in turn-of-thecentury uniforms; three of them are seen—below right—with Candice Leach, executive secretary of the Pioneer Square Association. The Seattle “Pioneer Squad” was the idea of Mayor Wes Uhlman and Chief of Police Robert L. Hanson. It was formed in 1975, and the policemen march along in their 1910 uniforms from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year.

Robert Pisor, press secretary to Detroit’s mayor, Coleman A. Young, was inspired by Seattle’s example, and so in the summer of 1977 Detroit’s Washington Boulevard section got its own contingent of bobby-helmeted policemen. They are seen below, posing on one of the oldfashioned trolleys that now rattle through the city’s downtown district—another gesture to the past.

The idea in both cases is to try to bridge the gap between the policemen and the citizens they serve and protect, the theory being that the vintage uniforms will reduce the authoritarian image and make the officers appear more human and approachable. On the other hand, officials of both cities are quick to point out that these policemen are not curious revivals of Mack Sennett’s Keystone Kops. They mean real business. The billy clubs they sport are real and quite as utilitarian as they were seventy years ago. So are the weapons they wear at their hips—real guns, which shoot real bullets.

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