I first posted this on the 3rd September 2003:
‘Perhaps the most striking illustration of the influence of uniforms to affect or alter role perspective is reported in the “Uniform Experiment” (Tenzel and Cizanckas, 1973). In 1969, the Chief of Police of the California community of Menlo Park, in the interest of professionalising the role of police and improving community relations, embarked on a program whose most apparent feature was a change in the style of police attire. The police of Menlo Park shifted from the typical blue, military style uniform to a civilian green blazer. The results were dramatic, both on the attitudes of the police and the community.
Tenzel and Cizanckas found that stripped of the established symbols of authority, police began to develop new patterns of relating to the community and gradually adopted the role of police as “public service officer”. In later years, this shift away from the militaristic model of authority led to the elimination of rank altogether and its replacement by a more horizontal organizational structure.
In follow up studies (Tenzel, Storms, Sweetwood, 1976) it was found that assaults on Menlo Park police officers decreased by 30%, citizen injuries resulting from arrest decreased by 50%, morale rose, and the staff turnover rate dropped from 25.5% in the year prior to the shift in uniforms to 2% three full years into the program. Finally, community approval of the blazer experiment rose from 69% following their introduction to 80% by 1975 (Cizanckas and Feist, 1975).’
LITERATURE REVIEW: THE EFFECTS OF UNIFORMS IN CORRECTIONS. No. B-02. Prepared by: Research Branch, Communications and Corporate Development, Canadian Correctional Service. FEBRUARY 1989.
It would be interesting to hear how this experiment concluded and what the land looks like in Menlo Park now. Anyone know?