BRANSON, Mo. – The Branson Police Department has many new developments under Chief Eric Schmitt, including a newly approved initiative allowing officers to dress more comfortably.
Branson visitors and residents may begin to notice officers dawning cowboy hats and facial hair. Upon taking over duties at Branson PD on December 15, Chief Schmitt vowed to bring fun and comfortability with him.
“I’m a big believer in, ‘If you don’t enjoy coming to work, why are you going to work?’” says Schmitt. “We are really striving to make it an enjoyable place to work, and one of the things that can help with that is our officers feeling comfortable in how they look.”
Schmitt created a uniform and equipment committee consisting of both civilian employees and officers. The chief handed specific uniform guidelines over to the committee, only asking to keep uniforms dark blue, safe and appearing professional. One officer recommended working on the image of the department in order to reflect the Branson area and its rich pioneer history.
After adjusting pay for employees and the purchase of the White House Theater to build a new department, the committee and chief also have discussed the implementation of load-bearing vests for officers. Load-bearing vests are typically worn over the uniform and improve officers’ health exponentially while still holding their gear and not trapping heat.
Officer Jordan Harder told The Heartlander he enjoys working under a chief who is open to ideas and discussions with his officers. Additionally, Harder says he wore a cowboy hat before joining the force and says they come in handy for windy, rainy and sunny conditions.
Schmitt says cowboy hats are optional, while other officers may prefer to wear a ballcap. The chief pointed out workers who wear glasses may benefit from wearing a cowboy hat versus something else during harsh weather conditions.
“Branson has a long pioneer history. It fits Branson, it fits our history well,” the chief says.
Additionally, the department has been involved in the no-shave November trend for the last three years and has heard various compliments from the community. Officers at Branson PD are also allowed to show visible tattoo work under Schmitt.
“If officers want to do it and they can maintain a professional look, I really don’t have any beef with that, if it makes them happier and makes them enjoy their job more. I am a firm believer that happy, comfortable officers treat the public a whole lot better than unhappy, uncomfortable police officers. That’s ultimately what we’re going for,” said Chief Schmitt.
To the chief’s surprise, approximately 70% of his officers have shown support by participating in the new initiative and says nearly 85% of the community has enthusiastically embraced the changes. Schmitt says most citizens prefer seeing an officer who appears able-bodied and wearing a cowboy hat, or has facial hair, compared to an officer who is out of shape.
“They want people that look like they are going to take care of business when they need to, are professional and polite. We found that it is a lot more about the image of being able to do the job and treat people well than it is about what they are dressed in. That is eye-opening for me.”
The department has actually seen an increase in applications since adopting the comfort concepts. Next in line for change is the outdated Branson PD badge, which will soon receive a new look.