To keep up with the the city's fashion scene, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is spending $300,000 on gold-plated accessories for a more professional look, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. The department is dipping into its general fund to buy gold belt buckles, baton rings and key holders.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who runs the department and has spending discretion, said that the uniform makeover was absolutely necessary.
“The first impression somebody gets of one of our deputies in the field is what they look like when they approach," McDonnell said in a recent interview. "Are they squared-away looking? Do they have their gear in place? Are they physically fit?”
“Often our deputies are in situations where they’re all by themselves, and they need to exude command presence,” McDonnell added.
Times reporter Maya Lau noted that higher-quality ballistic vests, backup guns and body cameras will remain optional items that deputies will have to pay for on their own, while taxpayer dollars will go towards the new gold belts.
Sgt. Mike Ramirez, the department’s uniform coordinator, told the Times that he’s witnessed how a messy uniform can lead to violence. Ramirez said that a former partner, who often looked "disheveled," was singled out by a perp because of his more casual, laid-back style.
Sheriff's Lt. Brian Moriguchi, who is president of the Professional Peace Officers Association, told the Times that the belt buckle purchase was odd.
“The whole thing would be no big deal if the sheriff corrected all the other things wrong with our department,” Moriguchi said. “But it becomes a big deal because people look at how you haven’t changed all the other things except the color of our belt buckle.”