Updated: Sep 17
by Simon Werrett, Minister at Eastwood Evangelical Church and former police officer
Why do police officers never wear their hats these days?
It is perhaps a question that has been asked over several years. When I joined the police in the mid 80’s, it was second nature to wear your custodian helmet when on foot patrol and police hat when alighting from a vehicle.
The heavy custodian helmet was only worn by male Constables or Sergeants when on foot patrol, females only had one type of hat suitable for either foot or vehicle patrol. Police officers had to be of a minimum height and the helmet usually made them stand out in a crowd. But over times that has changed. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between Police Officers, Security Guards, Local Government Officers and volunteers.
Southend on Sea Constabulary was established in 1914 and in 1969 they let Essex Police join to become a joint constabulary.
Unfortunately, in 1974 the title was shortened to Essex Police, but the custodian helmet still contains elements from the amalgamation: the cockle and shrimps on the top.
Members of the Southend on Sea Constabulary used to have a white helmet and officers were entitled to wear it until retirement.
There was considerable folklore around the helmet:
No! Pregnant women were not allowed to ‘P’ in it when desperate
No! It was not an illegal arrest because an officer was not wearing their hat, and
Yes! If you try to knock it off, you will be arrested.
I had a boss who was fixated on officers wearing their hats, he even had a picture of an incident at a Scottish airport where an officer arresting a terrorist was wearing his hat. When you made excuses, he would point this out in his loud voice!
Although the helmet has been around since 1863, times and priorities have changed, The uniform is becoming more user friendly for officers. Having said that, the helmet is still used by most police forces.
The Bible mentions the helmet in several places:
David borrows Saul’s helmet to go and fight Goliath, but it does not fit.
Paul, perhaps inspired by the Roman soldiers guarding him speaks of the helmet of salvation. The helmet is about protection and visibility. The Roman soldiers like Police Officers were recognised by their helmets.
When I was growing up (in a pre-internet world) I had numerous Bibles, study books and concordances. Now, I have a few but most of my resources are accessed via my iPad or Mac.