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Baseball caps out for Pittsburgh police

| Thursday, July 10, 2014, 11:03 p.m.

Acting Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar's new message to Pittsburgh police: Hats off.

Spokeswoman Sonya Toler said on Thursday that officers no longer have the option of wearing police baseball caps.

“The goal is to keep the highest standard of professionalism throughout our public safety department,” Toler said. “That boils down to appearance and keeping your uniform looking professional. The director does not believe that baseball caps are professional.”

As word of the edict spread through the bureau, officers complained about the impracticality of what they call taxicab hats, which feature a band with a black and gold checkered pattern, and their anger at the change.

“If you're tasked with directing traffic an extended amount of time, the hats are very uncomfortable,” Officer Howard McQuillan, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1. “It would be my fear that more people would not wear the hats and create discipline problems. Maybe we'll come to some solution, but either way, we're professionals in an honorable job.”

The union reviews proposed policy changes and can meet with the administration to discuss them before they are implemented.

Officers are expected to wear traditional service caps in public, except when in vehicles, Toler said. They are expected to comply with the rule by Sept. 1.

“One thing that you'll find with our public safety director, he believes in ‘You dress the part,' ” Toler said. “He believes in that kind of philosophy. It also helps give a more professional perception to the public about our officers.”

She said Bucar and Acting Police Chief Regina McDonald were unavailable for interviews.

The bureau has permitted officers to wear baseball caps since at least 2004.

Bucar, a former FBI supervisor, worked as a Pennsylvania State Police trooper in Uniontown and Belle Vernon from 1985 to 1991. He became Public Safety director in June.

The department will allow exceptions to the hat rule for officers assigned to bicycle and motorcycle units, Toler said.

“We will have a police department that acts and appears professional,” she said.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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