New police look in the works

Officers’ khaki shirts get a refresh with agility and comfort in mind

A senior officer explains the change in uniforms that will make police better suited to the crime suppression job and the hot climate. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Royal Thai Police is seeking to update its conventional khaki uniform, in the hopes of making its officers more agile in their pursuit of criminals.

Even though the new uniform’s prototype is still being trialled at some police stations and has yet to be officially launched, many believe that a change is inevitable.

Previously, a number of police units have attempted to change the police uniform, with little success.

For example, tourist police at tourism hotspots once saw their uniforms change from the long-sleeved khaki shirt with shoulder patches and metal badges, to short-sleeved shirts and blue shorts. In some place, they even rode bicycles on patrols.

However, those changes were short-lived, and based on the whim of the heads of the police units.

But this time, police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk said he is determined to make a serious effort to reform the police uniform.

Pol Maj Gen Somprasong Yenthuam, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB), has been assigned by the police chief to oversee the police uniform change.

A committee is still studying the input gathered from officers nationwide, as well as the public, to finalise the new uniform design, but ultimately Pol Gen Suwat wants a uniform that is suited to patrol operations, Pol Maj Gen Somprasong said.

“The committee will make a final decision on the matter after the 10-day trial period and forward the matter to the police chief,” Pol Maj Gen Somprasong said.

A prototype is currently being trialled at three police stations, namely Chakkrawat, Bang Yi Khan and Bukhalo district stations.

The trial, which began on May 3, will run until Thursday, Pol Maj Gen Somprasong said, adding 10 officers at each station are now trying out the prototype uniform.

“The three police stations were chosen because they are ready for the trial as the areas under their jurisdiction are fairly large with many residents,” he said.

The deputy MPB commissioner said the government won’t have to spend additional money on the uniforms, as it will be paid for using the annual provision.

The proposed new uniform costs about 2,000 baht each, Pol Maj Gen Somprasong said, adding the uniforms will be provided to officers annually as part of their job perks.

If the new uniform is approved, a new regulation will be issued under the Royal Thai Police Act to enforce the uniform change, he said.

The uniform, Pol Maj Gen Somprasong said, takes into account input gathered from active-duty officers working at operational level.

The proposed new uniform includes a baseball-style cap, fitted close to the head and much lighter than conventional police helmets.

The shirt has two panels — the upper made of khaki while the lower is made from a more breathable fabric which is easy to wash and dry, he said.

Unlike the original metal police badges, the new badges are made out of cloth, he said, adding the decision was taken following reports of injuries sustained from the badges’ jagged edges during arrests and public order operations.

The proposed new police uniform also include tactical pants featuring an elastic waistband and multiple pockets, and shoes which are designed for running without causing foot pain, Pol Maj Gen Somprasong said.

The committee agreed the proposed uniform should be trialled at units under the MPB first until Thursday before deciding whether to make any further changes, he said, adding public opinions are welcome.

“The committee has studied police uniforms from around the world before deciding on the prototype,” he said.

“But what is most important is the opinion of police officers who use it, and the public.”

“Whether the proposed new police uniform will convey less power or authority remains to be seen. It is not finalised yet and can still be changed,” Pol Maj Gen Somprasong said.

Pol Lt Col Krisanaphong Poothakool, an associate professor in criminology and assistant president at Rangsit University, welcomed the move, saying it is a good idea to modernise the police uniform.

“The new uniform must help the officers be more agile and the price must be affordable,” he said, adding the new uniform design should be tailored to suit to Thailand’s hot and humid climate.

It must also receive the public’s approval, as well as the officers’.

“However, how the officers perform their duties and behave themselves in public is more important than their uniforms,” Pol Lt Col Krisanaphong said.

“Changing the uniform will be useless if the officers fail to improve their behaviour.”