June 25, 2012 - When James Pohlmann is sworn in as sheriff on July 1, succeeding 28-year Sheriff Jack A. Stephens, it won’t be the only history made that day.
Pohlmann will also unveil the new look of the Sheriff’s Office, including a new uniform and arm patch, a new six-pointed star badge and soon enough a new look for S.O. vehicles, which will be black and white with the emblem of the badge on the side.
Gone will be the black uniform shirts with a shield emblem and grey pants which deputies have worn since Sheriff Stephens took office July 1, 1984 – the only Sheriff’s Office look any parish resident under the age of 30 likely can remember.
Instead, the new look will be a khaki-colored shirt known as silver tan, and with navy blue pants with a double pin stripe down the side, similar to the look of the U.S. Marine Corps.
There will be a new badge with a six-pointed star and a new patch, which shows the new color scheme, with the six-pointed star flanked by the American flag on the left and the St. Bernard Parish flag on the right. The look of department cars hasn’t been finalized but will be black and white.
Cost of the uniforms will be covered by seizures of cash and vehicles in drug cases, money which can’t be used for regular operations costs such as salaries.
Pohlmann said he wanted a new look but said it was the deputies he spoke with individually and in groups who specifically requested going away from the black uniform tops because they feel extra hot in the summer heat.
That was the beginning of the move toward what will be debuted, Pohlmann said.
“We are doing it all internally,’’ Pohlmann said, with several deputies involved in looking at other agencies and tossing out suggestions until a consensus was reached. “Everybody seems to like it,’’ he said of the uniform, which he called a classic look.
“Since we changed the color of the uniform, we had to change the patch design as well,” said Pohlmann. Several deputies worked on determining the right look.
“We looked at other agencies and took a little bit from several different patches we had seen,” Pohlmann said.
Capt. Ronnie Martin, a 20-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office and a former U.S.Marine, donned the new uniform for photos recently and said he likes the look.
“His (Pohlmann) idea in the very beginning was that he wanted to bring some color to the uniform,” Martin said. “We had got several compliments about the old uniforms over the years, but I like the idea of adding some color.”
Pohlmann said he wanted the six-pointed star badge because he feels it is “symbolic to a sheriff’s deputy.”
He said he wore a star when he started at the Sheriff’s Office in 1983 for then-Sheriff Ralph McDougall. “(The star) was something I was very passionate about and wanted to go back to,” Pohlmann said.
“Not only the uniform, but also the badge brings this administration its own identity,” he said. “It’s been 28 years that we wore the black and grey uniforms and the shields, and so I think the timing now is perfect for a change to the new appearance.”
Pohlmann said plans also are in the works to eventually redesign the patrol units, as well as department stationery, and other departmental items that have always included the Sheriff’s Office logo.
“We currently have a group of deputies that are trying to design a whole new scheme for the cars, but the problem that we are faced with today are budget challenges,” he said.
While the new uniforms are being funded by monies seized from drug busts, Pohlmann said costs for a re-design of department vehicles will be cut by using prison inmate labor.
Besides the uniform, badge, patch and vehicles there have been other changes are being made leading up to Pohlmann’s becoming sheriff.
The department budget has been worked on as sales tax revenue has fallen from what it was before Hurricane Katrina – the same problem numerous public agencies have had in the New Orleans area.
“Some of the things I did on the surface includes placing a hiring freeze at the Sheriff’s Office,’’ Pohlmann said. “We have not hired anyone since Jan.1.’’ Also, the number of employees has shrank from about 315 to about 290 as some have retired and some went to other jobs.
The take-home car policy under which deputies pay at least $150 a month for the right to use a vehicle when they are off-duty has also changed. Those who live outside St. Bernard Parish aren’t eligible now to take home a department vehicle, which saves on insurance costs, gasoline costs and overall wear-and-tear on vehicles.
Pohlmann said changes have saved about $1 million so far. “Is that enough? No,” he said. “I think there’s some more chipping away that we are going to do that I think is going to save us about another half-million dollars or so in savings probably over the next six months.”