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Looking Good: The Professional Image of Fort Collins Police Services

Part 4 in a series of articles chronicling the history of Fort Collins Police Services

There's no doubt that Fort Collins Police Services has evolved over the decades. As the population grew, so did the numbers of officers and administrative staff required to serve that growth. But many other changes occurred along the way.

A physical image began to take shape when, in 1911, the Town Council authorized the purchase of police uniforms for the first time. This included a long blue coat, helmet and belt. In 1914, the uniform changed to khaki colored suits and Stetson hats but, by 1921, it was back to blue for a more professional look. In the '30s, a cuff case, cross draw holster, and extra bullets were added to the belt. The formal coat was dropped in 1942.

Originally, officers purchased their own weapons and determined the type of handgun they would use. Then, in 1964, the Police Department began to issue a standardized weapon to officers. The choice was a Smith & Wesson Model 15, .38 calibre with a 4-inch barrel. Detectives received a .357 Magnum with a 2-inch barrel because it was easier to conceal. In 1999, the .38 caliber was discontinued and officers purchased their own semi-automatic handguns based on department requirements. The Police Department again began to purchase the weapons in 2013.

Intermediate weapons (those less lethal) began with the billy club which, in early days, was ornate with a mother of pearl inlay. Today's version is plain and made from second-growth hickory. Brass knuckles came into use in the '20s, but were banned in the early '50s because they were considered too brutal. Leather saps, a covered piece of metal five to eight inches long, contained a spring ball that could knock out an offender. They were effective, but caused serious injury and, by the early '70s, were no longer used. Chemical Mace came in the '60s and was replaced by pepper spray in the '80s.

The Electronic Restraint Device (ERD) was used beginning in the mid-'80s. At about eight inches long and three inches wide, it packed a heavy electrical jolt that could knock a person to the ground. ERD use faded in the early '90s; the baton and pepper spray are currently the only intermediate weapons used.

Bullet resistant vests were added to the uniform in 1974. Officers were not required to wear them at that point and, because they were heavy and uncomfortably hot, many elected to not wear them. A requirement as of 2012 has made them a standard part of the uniform.


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