99% Invisible: The Blazer Experiment | KALW

99% Invisible: The Blazer Experiment

Nov 9, 2018

In 1968, Menlo County, California hired a new Police Chief.  His name was Victor Cizanckas.  With tensions running high between the police and the community, Chief Cizanckas decided to institute a number of new reforms that would alleviate those tensions.  One of those changes was trading in the old, pseudo-military, dark blue police uniform for a less intimidating and aggressive look: slacks, a dress shirt and tie, and blazer ... 

In their new blazer uniforms, the Menlo Park police looked more like preppy college students (or detectives) than traditional law enforcement officers. Some even sported pocket protectors with the Menlo Park police logo on them that would slide into the pocket of their dress shirts.

Officers in the department had mixed feelings about all of Cizanckas' changes, but the uniform may have been the most contentious.That’s because uniforms not only shape how people see the police, but also how police see themselves. In challenging an image so entrenched in the style and psyche of police officers, Chief Cizanckas was bucking a tradition that would prove hard to change: a uniform whose history was interwoven with the profession it represented and that went back more than a hundred years [...