Arundel's police chief bans black leather look

Officers' gloves called intimidating to public

safety concern raised

July 15, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

Black leather gloves have not been this controversial since O. J. Simpson was on trial.

As part of a campaign to make his officers appear kinder and gentler, Anne Arundel County Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan has decreed that black gloves are not to be worn except in inclement weather or for personal protection in hazardous situations.

Anne Arundel is the first department in the state and one of the few in the nation to ban black leather gloves, according to law enforcement officials interviewed yesterday.

Shanahan believes the gloves may "instill fear or intimidation."

"What can be more menacing than handcuffs and a gun on your belt?" asked Gary W. McLhinney, president of the Baltimore City's Fraternal Order of Police and a member of the organization's national board. "We're not schoolteachers; we are cops."

Several officers who routinely wear leather gloves to protect their hands and to look good are criticizing the chief for micromanaging.

Officers in the Northern District who patrol along the border between Baltimore City and the county are particularly peeved about the ban on gloves. Under the chief's policy, officers say, they will waste time pulling their gloves on and off.

"It is a safety issue," says William T. Wild, president of the department's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70. "No one wants to get stuck by a needle."

Omaha, Neb., police were banned from wearing black leather gloves last year, but the rule was repealed out of concern for safety.

Compounding the anger is the chief's ban on gloves with the fingertips cut off. In an interview, Shanahan says that leather gloves -- with and without fingertips -- make officers appear overly aggressive and unapproachable.

"I don't like to see officers with short-sleeved shirts on and black leather gloves," said Shanahan, in an interview. "I think that [black leather gloves] imply aggression and go against what I am trying to convey."

Shanahan, who was appointed chief by County Executive Janet S. Owens in April, is a proponent of community-based policing. He wants residents to get to know the officers patrolling their neighborhoods. He said he wants his officers to look "approachable."

Lt. Jeff Kelly, a spokesman for the department, said that he was "unaware" of any complaints about the gloves from residents.

Other police agencies around the state allow gloves.

"It is personal choice," said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police. The state's 1,600 troopers are not issued gloves but may wear them. Officers in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County and Howard County are permitted to wear leather gloves, with restrictions.

The issue in Anne Arundel County developed after an in-service training session at which Shanahan spoke of his dislike for gloves and then asked Deputy Chief Gary L. Barr, commander of the field operations bureau, to send out a memo outlining his policies to the officers.

The June 28 memo states that "gloves are not to be worn while conducting a traffic stop or answering calls for service. It is the desire of this department to present a professional image that does not instill fear or intimidation upon initial contact."

The memo also says that officers should not wear "baseball style hats." And white V-neck, white crew neck or black crew neck T-shirts are the only shirts they are authorized to wear beneath their uniforms.

Pub Date: 7/15/99

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