Walking down Trousdale Parkway, USC students might soon be noticing some new sartorial choices — but not from their classmates.
On Wednesday, Department of Public Safety officers debuted their new, blue, uniforms.
“Six o’clock this morning was the rollout for our day one shift beginning today, and we are pretty excited about the look,” said DPS Deputy Chief David Carlisle.
The motivation behind the change from tan to blue uniforms is to have DPS look more like other law enforcement, Carlisle said. Los Angeles Police Department officers wear blue uniforms, as do university officers at UCLA and California State University, Northridge.
“We think it may be more contemporary, maybe even a more professional look, though I did like our old uniforms also,” Carlisle said.
With this, however, comes a separate issue: students might mistake DPS officers for LAPD.
“People say, ‘Well, it looks a lot like LAPD’ and, yes, we were very concerned with that, but one distinction students should realize is our uniform has a patch,” Thomas said. “LAPD doesn’t have a patch.”
Another issue with the old uniforms was suppliers. DPS Chief John Thomas said that not only did the old suppliers underestimate DPS’ needs, but since multiple brands were authorized, the uniforms ended up being different shades of tan.
“When you put us all together it did not look uniform, and the purpose of wearing a uniform is uniformity,” Thomas said.
In addition to the uniform, the department will also be changing the patch they wear on their sleeves. Previously, the patch only identified DPS officers as part of the University of Southern California. Now they will also specify each officer’s department.
“I wanted something that specifically said ‘Department of Public Safety,’” Thomas said. “It was important to me that when people saw our uniform they knew we were a department. There’s nothing wrong with the university seal, but most public safety agencies — be it campus or municipal — have a unique patch that says department or what they’re affiliated with.”
Within DPS, there are two types of officers. Public safety officers, of which Carlisle said 115 are academy-trained, carry weapons and have the power to arrest. Community service officers, of which there are 147 authorized positions, are not academy-trained and act more as security officers who observe and report incidents around campus.
The public safety officers will be the ones now wearing blue uniforms, while community service officers will remain in tan uniforms. Both groups chose which uniforms they would wear among themselves.
“We put it out for a vote, so the officers had to vote as to what they wanted to do,” Thomas said. “It was exactly four [public safety] officers that did not want to change uniform, so it was pretty unanimous.”
Community service officers also had the option of switching to new uniforms which were slightly different ones with a light blue shirt, but decided against it.
“We wanted to distinguish between the public safety officers — the academy-trained officers — and the officers who are community officers,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle and Thomas were both excited about the new change, though Thomas said had the decision been solely in his hands, it might have turned out a little differently.
“My taste is a little unique … They’re not as creative as I am,” he said. “My uniform would be … trust me, it would be a little bit different.”
Carlisle, on the other hand, seemed glad it was a slightly more democratic process.
“Thank God rational minds prevail,” he joked.
Carlisle, who worked in municipal law enforcement for 30 years before coming to USC, was excited for other reasons as well.
“When I started seven years ago, it was odd for me to wear tan and green, so I kind of like going back to my roots in blue,” he said. “It’s traditional police officer, law enforcement … and [for] some of us, like me, it makes us look thinner.”
Kate Guarino contributed to this report.