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The men and women in blue will soon become the men and women in black.

By Jan. 1, all uniformed members of the Toronto Police Service will sport a new look: black shirts and tailored black pants with cargo pockets on the thighs and a red stripe down the outside seam.

Also gone will be the baseball-type cap that many officers adopted last year, to be replaced by the traditional forage police hat with a red band.

A change has been under active consideration for several years, but new Chief Julian Fantino helped speed up the decision, said Staff Sergeant Fred Ellarby, Toronto Police spokesman. "He [Chief Fantino]wants a good-looking, standardized uniform," he said, referring to the chief's intention to get rid of the baseball-type caps.

The chief's desire to change the uniform is more than a wish to be part of a growing number of Canadian municipal police forces that are switching to black uniforms. Safety and practicality are the overriding factors, Staff Sgt. Ellarby said.

Blue shirts make police officers stand out at night, which can be dangerous in some circumstances. "Black gives better protection for officers in terms of cover," he said.

Few officers will lament the switch to the new cotton pants. The dark blue pants they now wear are a polyester blend that is hot during the summer and uncomfortable year round when officers have to move quickly, Staff Sgt. Ellarby said.

Toronto Police Constable John Segriff, a 30-year veteran currently stationed at 51 Division, said he is looking forward to the new pants because of the cargo pockets. "There's few pockets with these [the current]pants and the ones there are you can't get your hand in because of the gun holster," he said.

Staff Sgt. Ellarby said officers will be allowed to keep the necks of the black shirts open during the summer, but they will have to wear clip-on ties in the winter months, as they do now.

Replacing uniforms for nearly 5,000 officers will be expensive, but Chief Fantino has found the money in the budget, said Toronto Police Sergeant Lorna Kozmik.

The switch to shirts and pants that are wash-and-wear will save the force a large dry-cleaning bill, now more than $1-million a year.

Banning the cap will is likely to draw a mixed reaction, Constable Segriff said. "I don't mind losing the cap. You look more like a police officer with a forage hat," he said.

But he added that the majority of young police officers would prefer to keep the cap, which is cooler.

Constable Brett Kemp endorses the black uniform he has been wearing since he joined York Regional Police in July, saying it is cooler than the old uniform even when wearing a vest.

The York force switched to black shirts about four years ago and later to cargo pants, both moves made before Mr. Fantino became chief of police there, said Constable Chris Price of York Regional Police.

Other police forces that have adopted black uniforms include Durham Regional Police, Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service, and the Calgary Police Service.

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