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It's all about the uniform

Superintendent E. M. Klein, pictured 1947

When it comes to law enforcement uniforms, it's been decades since some local agencies have changed it up, officers say.

"It's always been like this as long as I can remember," Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said.

He estimated it's been at least 25 years that deputies have been wearing tan, button-down shirts and brown dress pants with a stripe down the side.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol hasn't changed its uniforms since the 1940s when they were military-style, with a light blue jacket and navy blue trousers, said Lt. Jody Skogen.

That's the only major change its uniforms have had since the agency was established in 1935, he said.

The uniforms consist of brown shirts, tan pants with a brown stripe and a hat.

Dickinson Police Department switched up its uniforms from light blue shirts to navy blue shirts and pants in the early 1990s, said Sgt. Dan Brown.

Tuhy remembers SCSO uniforms being gray prior to the change to brown and SCSO Capt. Fern Moser remembers deputies wore green at one time.

Though dress pants are still an option, Dickinson Police Department recently gave officers the option to wear cargo style pants, Brown said.

"Those are a lot more practical because you have the pockets that you can put stuff in," Brown said, adding most officers prefer that style.

Flared pants or skinny jeans are not options for local law enforcement.

"I think we're still really conservative," Moser said.

NDHP, DPD and SCSO all switch from long-sleeve shirts to short-sleeve shirts in the fall and back in the spring. Other items like ties and hats change for the season as well.

However, none are allowed to wear shorts in the summer.

Moser would prefer to wear short-sleeve shirts and shorts year-round, but knows that likely won't happen.

"I'm content with what we have," Moser said.

Officers say their uniforms are more than just a preference to color or style.

"You try to strike a balance with functionality and a professional appearance," Skogen said.

People often immediately recognize the difference between agencies by their uniforms, according to law enforcement.

"That's why we go with the colors we do so people know it's the sheriff's department," Tuhy said.

Officers with specialized duties in all local departments have uniforms that are a little different and seem to change more often than the standard.

"I'm sitting here with a polyester dress shirt and polyester dress pants, which is what most troopers would wear during their patrol efforts," Skogen said. "But if I were working with trucks or doing a search with a canine officer, this type of clothing wouldn't hold up very well in that environment."

None of the three agencies expect their uniforms to change anytime soon.

"I don't know that you're ever going to change the style," Moser said.

Sara Rouleau, a sales associate with Uniform Center in Bismarck, said many agencies' uniforms remain the same over the years but some of their law enforcement customers are leaning toward a more casual uniform.

"If you have somebody who's been in the department for a very long time, they stick with traditions," she said. "We try to get people to get with the times a little bit."

She likes that some agencies are recognizing a need for both sexes to have uniforms that fit.

"Then their female officers can actually wear women's clothing instead of fitting into the men's, which happens a lot," Rouleau said.

Outside of law enforcement, color changes are trending, she said. Most professions are also getting away from polyester uniforms.