I read this yesterday and I don’t know how I feel about it, but I was curious what other designers think.
All that tricked-up military gear, with that corny, faux-menacing, over-the-top Spaceballs stormtrooper look that police everywhere seem to favor more and more – all of this is symbolic of the increasingly total lack of ideas behind all that force.
It reminded me of an interview that I had eight years ago. http://www.revisionmilitary.com/eyegear.html
They make sunglasses for the US and Canadian military (or they did). I remember thinking, “why don’t they just buy Oakleys?”. Anyways, it is impressive and disturbing (depends on the product) how much effort is spent on high-design military and police gear.
I think the question you need to ask is not, Too much design?, but rather, Too little design?
Police officers LOVE new products: new handcuffs, new police cars, new guns, new flashlights. More often than not, their departments don’t actually have the money to buy this new tech, but police tech (just like military tech) is s3xy to a certain degree.
The aspects of police forces that really need new design - the police services and operational procedures - are, frankly, about as uns3xy as you can get. There has been very little application of using service design for police benefit (other than http://www.mypolice.co/), but this is where design really needs to occur (and where police departments need to be open to design). The whole mission statement of “to protect and to serve” has been lost in recent years, swept under the carpet by “find those terrorists.” It’s time for a little Police x Design.
PS Apparently the word “s3xy” is blocked on this forum…go figure
Remember that thread last year about all the police uni redesigns. I think it was interesting which ones got friendlier looking and which got more authoritarian. I think something like that makes a difference, or perhaps a more accurate way of putting it is that it is a indicator as to the thought process and tone of the government of that municipality.
I remember when I was studying in Italy, a long time ago now, there seemed to be several distinct police forces. The local police, which had more colorful uni’s and seemed relatively relaxed, the regional police, which seems a little more official, blue berets and things like that, and then the Carabinieri, which is actually part of the military, dark uniforms, machine guns, armored vans with gun ports… You don’t want those guys pulling up to your door…
In about 1998, a business acquaintance gets stopped in a routine check on the road in Italy. The Carabinieri check his car out, open the rear hatch looking for contraband, send him on his way. Ten minutes later they come screaming up the road, pull him over, pull him out of the car and hold him face down on the ground at gunpoint, while one of the Carabinieri retrieves the machine gun he had mislaid in the trunk of the car.
Changing the topic slightly. I’ve always been interested in prison design. Now that is the ultimate environment to design. Not to mention the entire system. These guys are so crafty with constructing weapons out of what little supplies they get plus hiding things in their cells.
Robot guards with sensors to detect abnormal behaviour will soon begin patrolling South Korean prisons to ease the burden on their human counterparts. A group of scientists has developed the robot warders which can connect prisoners with officers through a remote conversation function. The robots – 1.5 metres (five feet) high and running on four wheels – will mostly be used at night. The robots’ sensors will enable them to detect abnormalities such as suicidal behaviour and violence and report it to officers in charge. (EPA/YONHAP)
As someone who has recently started work designing police hardware, it’s a very fine line to tread between the functional and rugged, almost military aesthetic that a lot of police seem to favour, and the often ‘flashy’ image given by a lot of consumer products.
Personally, I think that the ideal police ‘design’ fits somewhere in the no-mans-land between the two.
On the one hand, you don’t want the equipment to look cheap and breakable. If anyone is going to break a piece of kit, it’s going to be a police officer. It also has to enstow a level of confidence in the officer so that if the situation does turn nasty, they have both the law and their products behind them.
On the opposite side of the coin though, police also have to deal with lots of underprivileged families in their day to day duties. The last thing they want to do is bring out something that looks like it cost more than their entire income.
A case and point is the use of the iPad - it is being trumped by airline staff and lots of other services as their break into the digital world. How would someone in social housing feel though if a police officer turned up sporting a flashy iPad to take a statement?
Any design for the police needs to strike the balance between the ingenuity of consumer products and the discreetness of business, whilst being secure enough to support the officers in their role… not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination!
… The police uniform identifies a person with powers to arrest and use force and establishes order and conformity within the ranks of those who wear it by suppressing individuality.  The police uniform can have extraordinary psychological and physical impact. Depending on the background of the citizen, the police uniform can elicit emotions ranging from pride and respect, to fear and anger.
it’s a very fine line to tread between the functional and rugged, almost military aesthetic that a lot of police seem to favour, and the often ‘flashy’ image given by a lot of consumer products.
Law Enforcement Officers may like paramilitary “look” of it’s hardware for it’s intimidation value, but it’s been shown that it takes a lot less to affect personal behavior.
From the same article.
In one experiment to test the power of the police uniform, a research assistant randomly approached pedestrians on a city street and ordered them to either pick up a paper bag, give a dime to another person, or step back from a bus stop.  The research assistant alternately wore casual clothes, a milk delivery uniform, or a grey, police-style uniform bearing a badge but lacking weapons. Only the police-style uniform resulted in a high rate of cooperation from citizens. Moreover, obedience to the police-style uniform usually continued even after the research assistant quickly walked away and did not watch to ensure compliance.
If ever there was an example of that, it has to be the British Constable on Patrol, equipped with a whistle, and truncheon. Of course in a less “civilized” culture it may take more, but it can also be said, that in those societies the “military” generally is law enforcement.