With an eye toward giving its SWAT team a less menacing look, the Minneapolis Police Department's tactical unit will soon trade in their Army green uniforms for more traditional police-colored threads.
Department spokesman Scott Seroka stressed that the unit is "not eliminating any necessary equipment, only changing its color." Still, he acknowledged the change as only one aspect.
"Understandably, the equipment which the SWAT team carries is tactical in appearance and necessary for their job, so changing the color alone may not fully change perception," he said.
SWAT uniforms and equipment will switch from an olive green to dark blue in an attempt to soften the unit's image amid an ongoing national debate about the militarization of local police departments.
Officials hope the change will "address public perception of the militarized look," Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher said in a memo to SWAT team members on Monday.
The change was among the recommendations made by President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, created after several unarmed black men were killed by white police officers. It suggested that police could "minimize confrontation" by wearing "soft look" uniforms and "having officers remove riot gear as soon as practical, and maintaining open postures."
The uniform switch's $50,000 cost will be paid out of the department's general fund, officials said.
"Recently, there has been concern voiced by the community, especially at a national level, about the militarized look of SWAT teams, largely based on the military green color of the SWAT uniforms and gear," Seroka said.
"Changing the color of clothing and equipment worn by our SWAT team to a dark navy blue is more consistent with 'traditional' police uniform and equipment colors."
Camouflage and so-called "OD green" uniforms have fallen out of favor among other big-city tactical units, said Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.
Other equipment assigned to the unit, Kroll said, including the BearCat armored vehicle, will eventually be repainted — likely black.
"That's been kind of a push for a lot of major cities, so they don't mimic the military," Kroll said. "It's more of the softer touch, warm fuzzies they want to give everybody."