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Germany

Berlin's Finest Go Blue

Berlin's police force will get a chic new look as they swap their green uniforms for blue. The wardrobe change is expected to come into effect next year.

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Coming soon to Berlin streets

What will the snappiest-dressed police officers be wearing this season? Well, for most of them in Europe, it will be the same old boring blue. The Greeks sweat their way through the humid streets of Athens in azure, while the French gendarmerie have been advocates of bleu for as long as anyone can remember. Nothing really to get excited about in the law enforcement fashion stakes this or any other year.

Not unless you're a police officer in Berlin, that is. The German capital's cops are due to follow Hamburg's lead it as they get set to swap their mostly green-beige wardrobes for blue, possibly within the next 12 months. Freed from the Seventies styling of mustard shirts and brown slacks, Berlin's finest will probably not care a jot that they are fashion followers rather than trend setters.

Five German states have already decided that that their police forces will be clad in blue, Brandenburg is toying with the idea while in Hamburg the process of wardrobe-transition has already begun. In addition, the country's border patrol force is also gearing up to hang up their green rags by mid-year and slip into a bluer shade.

"The trend is irreversible," Berlin Senator Ehrhart Körting told German daily Berliner Zeitung. "We do not want to shut ourselves out."

What does a color mean?

But why blue? Far from being the most sober alternative to the military green of old, many believe blue inspires calm while some say it imparts authority. Others call it a respect thing. But the reality may be that for as long as there have been cops on TV and in film, they have been decked out in blue uniforms which have become the quintessential police outfit.

Demonstration gegen George Bush in New York Polizisten

New York police.

Most European cops say they look to New York police officers for inspiration: the New York Police Department (NYPD) blues are famous, particularly after the arrival of the hit police drama, "NYPD Blue."

Cheaper in the long-run

Berlin's finest weren't always green. Until 1973, they were, in fact, blue. But the designs were old-fashioned and looked like the former army uniforms. So they were updated- to a calming green.

Columbo in Deutschland

American actor Peter Falk, most famous for his role as detective Columbo, wore a police uniform on a German TV show in 2003.

Berlin resisted the trend for sometime, mostly due to the poor state of the city's finances. But recently, they found a solution: buying together with other municipalities can save them up to 20 percent. And the new uniforms, at a cost of €500 ($639) each, will be €630 cheaper when bought in bulk. The initiative is expected to cost about €8.8 million and take about five years. In the meantime, Berlin cops will be green - and blue.

The police officers themselves say they welcome the change, particularly with the sleeker, modern cuts and breathable fabric.

Uniforms vs. radios

In Hamburg, the trailblazer of the wardrobe changes, the public is catching on, say officials. Still, Bavaria resists, for good reasons, interior ministry spokesman Michael Ziegler told Berliner Zeitung.

"We need our money for more important things than for uniforms in a different color," he said. Apparently, Bavarian officers put more modern communication systems ahead of looking good.

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