Prison Officers and Police should be clearly distinguishable in their roles, their responsibilities and their appearance. The message that accompanied the recently announced revamp of the Prison Officers’ uniform is a misrepresentation of the severity of change that has been enacted. I have no doubt that the previous uniforms were uncomfortable and improvements are surely welcome. I certainly agree with any improvement in Officer safety which should always be a primary concern for the people on the front line, and those who decide what happens on the front line.
It is one thing to alter the styling or the fabric of a uniform, it is something all together different to change the colour to one that is deliberately and admittedly similar to the Police. In a public consciousness it is suggesting a defacto deputisation of the Prison Officer which either elevates the authority of the Prison Service or it diminishes the role of the Police. Obviously the prior, as reduction in authoritarian roles has never been a hallmark of any Government.
“They are blue – to match other uniforms in the justice sector such as police.” These words from the Police Minister are very difficult to misconstrue. The choice of colour was deliberate and in case everyone has forgotten, the uniforms were olive to make the clear distinction of Prison Officers from Police. This distinction is particularly important in court, where both services have well defined roles and must co-ordinate efficiently with a very difficult job to do. Any potential for confusion when dealing with incarcerated individuals is never something to be taken lightly. Personally, I question the potential and motive for this decision to subvert the perception of authority in the Police and the Prison System.