Police force scraps traditional bobbies' helmet

MD of Bonhams auctioneers in Knowle Bob Bleasdale with policemans helmets from the 1950's and 1960s
Huddersfield Examiner

West Yorkshire Police drops “cumbersome” and “impractical” Victorian-style headgear for modern peaked caps

One of Britain’s largest police forces is to ditch the traditional bobbies’ helmet.

West Yorkshire Police, which has 5,000 officers, will abandoned the tall helmet which has been an instantly-recognisable part of the policeman’s uniform since it was adopted by the Metropolitan Police more than 150 years ago.

The headgear – known as the “custodian” – is worn by West Yorkshire beat officers who will now be issued with peaked caps instead.

Officers described the Victorian-style hat as “completely impracticable” for modern-day policing, and welcomed the force’s announcement.

Frontline officers equipped with the tall helmets find them cumbersome and often have to remove the helmets when running after a suspect in case they fall off. Their weight has also been blamed for neck and back problems.

Superintendent Keith Gilert said: “What we have found increasingly is that as the duties carried out by officers and their uniforms have evolved, peaked caps have become more appropriate and more in keeping than the traditional helmets in many situations.

“A survey last year revealed the overwhelming majority of staff who responded wanted to use the operational cap as part of every day uniform than the traditional helmet and, as a consequence, the force took a decision in late 2014 to progress towards this position, with the caps being rolled out during 2015.”

He added that the traditional headgear would still be worn for ceremonial occasions.

Whilst this move recognises the operational reality of modern policing, West Yorkshire Police firmly recognises the iconic importance and ceremonial significance of the traditional police helmet,” said Supt Gilert.

“There will always be occasions when the use of a helmet will be preferable over a cap and in these circumstances a helmet will be available.

“Examples of such occasions might be funerals, Remembrance Day parades and similar ceremonial occasions where tradition will quite rightly take precedence over practicality.”

Nick Smart, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: “We have been in consultation with the force for some time over the issue of headwear for officers.

“We are pleased the force has listened to us and our members and acted on the feedback regarding the headwear issue.

“The helmet is a traditional and iconic part of our uniform, but it is completely impracticable for daily policing duties. It was cumbersome.

“We have moved away from white shirts to more modern and practicable ‘wicking’ shirts in recent times, and the change of headwear is another area where we are updating our uniform making it fit for purpose and the challenges of modern policing faced by our officers.”

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said the scheme would be “cost-neutral”.

Thames Valley Police replaced the helmets with peaked caps about five years ago but West Yorkshire Police is believed to be the largest force in England and Wales yet to take the same step.

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