Some called it "spiffy" or "neat" or "really terrific." But like every new outfit on its first day out, the latest U.S. Capitol Police uniform had its detractors as well.
"I'm afraid they will confuse us with the guys at McDonald's," groused one officer.
Yesterday morning about 60 of the 1,200 Capitol police were decked out in their new gear, with dark (rather than white) shirts to match their trousers, contrasting light blue double stripes down the sides of their pants and wide patent-leather belts for pistol and handcuffs.
Still to come: lighter-weight hats with rounded tops instead of eight sides, and gold-colored badges instead of silver.
The changes were suggested by Chief James J. Carvino and approved by the police board, according to public information officer Robert Howe. The uniform hadn't been changed since white shirts became part of the outfit for privates and sergeants 10 years ago. The new shirts will be slightly more expensive than the old, but Howe would provide no other specifics on the uniforms' cost.
The uniform was changed to give a snappier look "and to improve the image of the force," Howe said. "If the men feel better they are likely to take better care of the uniforms," he added. Uniforms usually last a year, and the new items will be phased in as replacements, he said.
Officers who work at the Capitol itself were the first to get the new uniforms because they're the most visible, said Howe. Members of the new emergency squad, the First Response Team, said they were happy with the new outfits, but refused to be quoted by name.
"I'm glad to be rid of the white shirts. They made us real targets," commented one.
Although the new outfit didn't spark the criticism inspired by the marching band-style uniforms introduced for President Nixon's White House Police in 1970, it did draw its share of complaints. Across from the Capitol, in front of the Longworth House Office Building, some officers were unenthusiastic:
"You can't tell me that they aren't damn hot in those dark shirts," said one old-timer. "Besides, just add a black armband and we will look like the Gestapo."