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New Look, New Vehicles For SPD

After more than a half-century, the Seattle Police Department is getting a new, modern look.


Q: What’s wrong with the uniforms you already have? 

A: The Seattle Police Department has been wearing the same uniform for 52 years.  It’s a wonderful uniform and has served us well. However, the French blue shirt, with contrasting pockets and epaulettes,Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.09.55 PMmust be specially manufactured for us and local vendors are having trouble keeping them in stock.

The department has been discussing updating the uniforms for more than a decade. After extensive wear testing over the last two years, officers selected uniforms made by the manufacturer Blauer. Nearly 70 percent of SPD officers surveyed preferred the navy color.

We will be retaining one key piece of our previous uniforms: custom silver buttons featuring the City of Seattle shield. These buttons will continue to be a part of our uniforms, as they have since the 1960s.

Officers’ protective vests will also now be incorporated into their shirts—rather than being worn under clothing—and officers will also now have the option of utilizing an external suspender to help lighten the load of their heavy gear belts.

Q: Won’t you look like all the other police departments out there now? 

A: Many other agencies have adopted a similar style of navy uniform, but SPD’s custom patches, buttons and vests will lend their own unique flair to our officers’ ensemble. We believe these details will distinguish us from other departments, which may have also chosen to go with the slimming Navy blue uniforms.

Q: What will happen to the old uniforms?

One will be donated to the Museum of History and Industry, and another will be retired to the Seattle Police Museum.  As for the rest, officers are welcome to keep what they want, or return them to the precincts so they can be destroyed.

The SPD’s New Patrol Vehicles

Q: What’s wrong with the cars you already have?

A: Ford recently stopped producing the Crown Victoria Interceptor, which has long been the standard patrol car used by SPD and many other police agencies. As a result, we had to pick a new vehicle and selected the new Ford Interceptor SUV, which the department began phasing into service in early 2014.

Q: Wait, you’re driving SUVs now? Do you hate the environment? 

A: Officers began testing six different vehicles in 2012 before landing on the Ford Interceptor model. After some discussion, the department opted to adopt the SUV. The difference in fuel efficiency between the Interceptor sedan and SUV is relatively minor (PDF), but the SUV actually proved more efficient during testing. After two trial cycles, the Interceptor sedan averaged 8.1 miles per gallon, while the SUV averaged 8.3 mpg. The department also favored the SUV for its handling, comfort, safety and maintenance requirements. The vehicles also have more space for the growing amount of electronics and other gear officers carry inside their cars.

The SUVs also remain more fuel-efficient than our Crown Victoria patrol vehicles, which average 6.7 miles per gallon. Our new vehicles come standard with the Idleright system, allowing officers to more efficiently operate all the computers, radios and other electronics in their cars. In our old vehicles, it was often necessary for officers to leave their engines idling while on calls or even while completing paperwork at precincts in order to keep the electronics in their patrol cars from running down the battery. With IdleRight, officers can turn off the cars, and still keep the electronics and light bars running.

The new cars also have a very modern LED lighting package, which are both extremely bright and save energy.

The new SUVs are built to be safer. They have improved crumple zones, additional air bags, and all come with ballistic doors.

Q: Why cant you drive electric or hybrid vehicles? 

A: We haven’t yet found a hybrid or electric vehicle that meets our needs for patrol work. However, that could change in the future as the technology evolves. Some of SPD’s administrators and detective units currently use hybrid vehicles and the department is keeping tabs on advances in EV technology.


Q: Why did you need a new patch? 

A: SPD’s patch and shield were designed 42 years ago. They’re based on a design taken from a 1939 Marching Drill team flag. It’s meant to represent Seattle and includes the Space Needle, and a nod to Boeing. While it’s served us well, the shield is very detailed and is hard to see clearly when scaled down. The color scheme also clashed with the new uniform.


SPD patches through the years – (left to right, 1955, 1972, 2015)

With the change to a new uniform and patrol vehicle, it just made sense to reconsider the entire look of the department.

The new design emphasizes simplicity and improved readability for quick identification, as well as bringing back the symbol of the City of Seattle, the Chief Seattle seal.  The new patch keeps our current motto “Service, Pride, Dedication (SPD).”

Q: Who’s that on the new department seal?

A: Our new patch features the timeless 1970’s David Strong design of Chief Seattle, which is the official city seal.

The Mayor’s office is currently leading efforts to modernize and standardize the look and feel of all citywide logos and emblems. Our new shield design was aligned with these efforts.

The use of the Chief Seattle logo clearly links the Seattle Police Department with the City of Seattle and its other services.

Q: Who designed the new patch? 

This was a collaborative process between a local design agency (DEI Creative, located on Capitol Hill), our in-house designer, and members of the department. The Chief of Police and the Seattle Police Union President were directly involved. The Seattle Police Foundation paid for the work done by the design agency.

The Bottom Line

Q: So, how much will all this cost?

Each year, the department provides officers a $550 uniform allowance. SPD will also provide an additional, one-time, $300 stipend next year, at a cost of roughly $400,000. That will cover all the officers’ uniform needs.

The Seattle Police Foundation has generously offered to purchase load-carrying vests to provide a more comfortable, professional look for our patrol officers.

The department’s new vehicles will be purchased as part of our normal vehicle budget, and the new SUV decals are expected reduce labor costs for application.

Q: When will officers start wearing the new uniforms, and driving new patrol vehicles?

A: The department will begin phasing in the new uniforms and vehicles on January 1st. Officers can begin wearing their new duds on New Year’s Day, but will be given until March 1, 2015 to purchase the necessary clothing and equipment to comply with our new standard.

SPD anticipates the older Crown Victorias—featuring our previous shield design and light blue coloring—will be on the street for several years until the SUVs are completely phased in.