Corrections officers unveil new formal uniform

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska's corrections officers have never had a formal dress uniform, but that's about to change.

At the annual Alaska Police Memorial Day ceremony last week, the Public Safety Employees Association quietly unveiled a dress uniform for corrections officers.

The uniform features a dark blue belted jacket with light blue trim and gold accessories. The two up, two down pockets are an updated version of traditional police uniforms from the 1920s and 1930s, said Brad Wilson, Public Safety Employees Association business agent for corrections officers.

Details are still being worked out and the Corrections Department has not yet approved it, Wilson said. But people working on the design wanted to get some reaction, so they drafted Jason Kollander from Wildwood Correctional Center, who happened to be the same size as the prototype, and he wore it with borrowed white gloves at the ceremony for dead law enforcement officers at the memorial near Alaska State Troopers headquarters.

No corrections money is involved in the project, said department spokesman Bruce Richards. ''It's something they're proposing to do at their own costs.''

When they get a final design, the department expects to approve it, he said.

A dress uniform is a matter of pride and self-esteem, Wilson said.

Corrections officers have long been law enforcement stepchildren, sometimes looked down on by police and troopers as less trained or less professional.

Most of that was never true, Wilson said, but now none of it is. Corrections officers have to pass background checks, graduate from an academy and be certified by the Alaska Police Standards Council.

Having to show up for ceremonial occasions in everyday clothes, surrounded by troopers in powder-blue tunics, doesn't help the self-image.

''They walk the toughest beat in Alaska,'' Wilson said. ''This is a tough job, and you don't get a lot of respect. This is a way they can shine a little.''

About 730 men and women guard 2,900 prisoners in institutions around the state.

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