The case of the wrong trousers

Last updated 05:00 09/12/2012
Police officer ladder
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ
OPERATION TROUSERS: Police officers' pants are in the firing line.

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A pressing issue costing police millions could be ironed out as early as next year when "Operation Trouser" takes effect.

Police will begin testing new types of pants in March in a bid to reduce their annual $4 million dry-cleaning bill.

Currently, all police longs have to be taken to the cleaners on the taxpayer dollar because the fabric is not machine-washable. Officers have also complained the trousers are impractical.

"Some things might look good on the parade ground but are not always practical for a dog handler or someone chasing after a person," said Police Association president Greg O'Connor. "A lot of our people would like cargo pants. But police still have to be tidy."

O'Connor said the dissatisfaction was heightened when Australian police, who have more modern clothing, were stationed in Christchurch during the earthquake. "There was some uniform envy," he said.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall vowed in June to sort out the problem as soon as possible. He said hopefully not only would the new trousers be "wash-and-wear", they would also have more pockets.

Tailor Murray Crane, the founder of menswear label Crane Brothers, said he would love to get his hands on the project.

"It seems their uniforms haven't been updated for a long time. The uniform is a bit stuck in the past."

Crane said police should be wearing something lighter and more durable, ideally made out of merino wool and cotton.

"They're almost overdressed for what they're doing. They've always had a uniform to convey that air of authority. But it's quite impractical - guys in the field need to have the more active gear," he said. "They can still have an element like a cap or badges to add authority."

National manager of operations Superintendent Barry Taylor confirmed the project was under way but fabric type and style was yet to be confirmed. "This is an important process as we need to ensure we get trousers that look professional and suit the operational needs of the NZ Police in the future."

KIRSTY JOHNSTON

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