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Officers latest to patrol in black

| Saturday, June 16, 2012, 4:52 p.m.

Who are the new men and women in black in California Borough these days?

It's the officers of the Cali-fornia Borough Police Department.

Acting Chief Rick Encapera issued a statement saying the uniform change went into effect beginning June 7.

Officers will now don black uniform shirts with matching black pants adorned with a burgundy stripe.

The choice of burgundy matches the decals of borough police cruisers as well as being on of the feature colors of the California Area School District.

The uniforms will be highlighted by a new patch, which commemorates the broad history of the community.

The patch, trimmed in gold with a burgundy background portrays features that have become synonymous of California throughout history.

A large eagle appears to be holding the super-imposed portrait between its wings. Featured is the famous horseshoe bend of the Monongahela River, a steam engine, a river-boat on the river and the clock tower of California University of Pennsylvania's Old Main.

Casey Durdines, who was elected as the borough's mayor when he was only 20-years-old, has never seen a change in uniform for the police department.

"It was definitely time for a change," Durdines said. "Chief Encapera said he has only worn one uniform since he started and that was over 30 years ago.

"It was definitely time to change it up."

Durdines said that when Encapera served as chief previously, the matter of changing the patch and uniforms was discussed, but that former Chief Jeff Gillen really pushed it.

"It's a shame because he ended up leaving before he actually got the chance to wear the new uniform," Durdines said of the former department head.

"We actually had an old postcard commemorating the borough's centennial celebration," Durdines said. "That postcard kind of served as the inspiration for the new patch."

In the late 1800s, California was a hub for boat building, which was the subject of a book written by former California University of Pennsylvania history professor J.K. Folmar.

The steam engine represents the hustle and bustle of the coal industry. Anyone in the town can give a different estimate to the number of trains that currently travel through the town per day.

"The clock tower symbolizes the borough's relationship with the university. You can't have one without the other," Durdines said. "The school and the town share founders. Not too many people realize that."

Durdines said a rough sketch of the patch was given to Tom Taylor, who works in the administrative services depart-ment at the university, who forwarded the sketch on to be refined and ready for mass production.

The current officers haven't offered any complaints about the new uniforms, telling Durdines that they are happy with the lighter fabric choice. Officers did have input on the patch and uniform design, he said.

"It was a nice patch before, but it could have been a patch used by any other police department," the mayor said. "This is unique. We wanted to have it represent our borough. With the paddle boat, the bend in the river, the clock tower and the engine ... that's what it does."

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