Police officers like to wear their uniforms
"The uniform is very important for your own safety"
Clothes make the man. They can express individuality or stand for a lifestyle. Those who wear uniforms don't have to worry about it, at least at work. Yvonne Schmierer from Heilbronn wore a uniform for 25 years. And gladly. She explains why she took off her police uniform anyway and what role appearance plays in the everyday life of a policewoman.
How long did you stand in front of the mirror this morning, Frau Schmierer?
Yvonne Schmierer: Half an hour. So I mean, shower, blow-dry your hair, get dressed, put on make-up. That takes about half an hour in the morning for me.
Are you vain?
Smear: To a certain extent, certainly. A well-groomed appearance is a must. I have a certain claim to myself. I don't know whether that's vain.
Why are you no longer wearing a uniform?
Smear: When I switched to the criminal police in April, I gave up my uniform. The police do their duty in civilian clothes. I didn't have to hand it in because it was mine, I paid it from my clothing account. But I think there are many colleagues who can do something with my uniform. At the beginning of your training you get basic equipment, and over the years every police officer buys something extra.
Did you find it difficult to give up your uniform after 25 years?
Smear: Yes, it was a strange feeling. Now, I'm not saying that it felt like quitting. But the moment I turned it in was a big step for me. Although I only switched from the public relations department to the criminal police internally.
Now you have to think about what to wear in the morning.
Smear: Yes and there are regulations. Even when it's hot outside, I have to wear long trousers and sturdy shoes. I am not allowed to come with sandals. During an assignment, I never know what situation I'll be in. It is therefore very clear that the regulations must be observed.
Do you always obey the dress code?
Smear: Outside, yes. Inside, it may happen that I take my shoes off for a moment.
Why is the uniform so important? Apart from the fact that you are immediately recognizable as a police officer outside.
Smear: The uniform is very important for reasons of uniformity and recognizability and therefore also for your own safety. When I go on a mission as a uniformed police officer, people recognize me immediately. This is important in tricky situations. Or in traffic. Drivers have to recognize us immediately. That is why we wear a hat and a reflective vest, and our vehicles are also equipped with reflectors. That way we don't have to expose ourselves to greater dangers.
Does a uniform appearance, uniforms like those worn not only by police officers, but also, for example, workshop employees or nurses, strengthen cohesion?
Smear: I do think that there is a feeling of togetherness. When I think about the first part of my apprenticeship, it was something special to wear a uniform. At that time it was still the green-beige, but at some point it is so commonplace, it no longer has a noticeable effect.
Are there colleagues who don't like wearing the uniform?
Smear: I think so. But nobody will have a real aversion to the uniform. When it's hot, you might have to bring yourself to put on long trousers, a service shirt and a protective vest. At 38 degrees, recording the accident alone becomes a challenge.
How do criminals, witnesses and ordinary people react to the uniform?
Smear: It is very different. Many citizens think it's great. We are spoken to often, and that's how it should be. We want to be there for the citizens. We don't want to stand on a pedestal because of the uniform. With or without a uniform, we are just as human as others. It was always a nice experience, it was always nice when I was valued by citizens.
And does the uniform inspire respect for criminals?
Smear: In uniform I am the representative of the law, of course I am in civilian clothes too, but not easily recognizable. Then only the ID card helps. Many citizens still feel respect there. And it certainly prevents some from doing something illegal. But unfortunately not everyone.
But the uniform also creates distance. Does it hold off some reactions?
Smear: That is possible. Distance isn't necessarily a bad thing. We maintain a formal approach during deployment. But the uniform is also pure prevention.
In what way?
Smear: When we are outside and patrol, for example, the citizens' feeling of security should be strengthened. Nobody in civilian clothes would see that the police were there. Unfortunately, it is also the case that citizens are unsettled when there are too many police forces. That is an area of tension. Many then wonder whether something has happened or whether they need to be afraid. But our concern is that people should feel safe when we are there.
Are you no longer wearing a uniform because the police do not want to be recognized?
Smear: For one thing, yes. When it comes to investigative work, it is often imperative that I cannot be identified as a police officer. Civilian clothing is an advantage in investigations into drug-related offenses, for example.
Does the uniform change the inner attitude?
Smear: No, as clothing is part of everyday life, the uniform does not change an inner attitude. I think it was part of everyday life for me for 25 years when I gave it up, then the step suddenly had something final, but the inner attitude has not changed.
Will you ever wear uniform again?
Smear: I dont know. I don't know where my professional career will take me. For the next few years I will probably do my job with the criminal police. As a press spokeswoman, it was important to always appear in uniform when doing public relations. I stand for the Heilbronn police, that expresses the uniform and makes a noticeable difference for citizens.
Some police officers would prefer not to wear their hats. Did you like to wear them?
Smear: (laughs) It's a necessary evil. You have to be clear, especially when it's hot, it is annoying. But when we have to regulate the traffic outside, it is important to wear the hat. The driver sees this cap.
Yvonne Schmierer, 42 years old, started her apprenticeship with the Baden-Württemberg state police in March 1993 at the age of 17. This is followed by 1.5 years of operations in the riot police. Further stations are the Lauffen and Weinsberg districts and the police stations in Beilstein and Ilsfeld. In between, Schmierer is delegated to the criminal police every now and then, for example to search for or combat drug-related crime. In 2007 she became a youth clerk at the Untergruppenbach police. In 2010 the police commissioner switched to public relations. Since spring she has been completing training at the Kripo to become a detective inspector.
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