4-7 Uniforms, Equipment, Grooming and Personal Appearance – Sworn Personnel

Policy Type: Local

Responsible Office: Chief of Police, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department

Initial Policy Approved: 5/30/2014

Current Revision Approved: 8/1/2023



It is the policy of the Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department (VCUPD) to provide sworn officers with the proper guidelines, apparel and equipment required for the optimal performance of their assigned law enforcement functions so as to demonstrate a sense of pride, professionalism and uniformity. Only items that are issued or hereafter approved by the department, shall be worn in combination with the assigned uniform. Department members are responsible for wearing and maintaining their uniforms in a manner that is consistent with the personal appearance guidelines provided in this written directive. Each member must dress in a neat and clean manner, typifying law enforcement professionalism. All supervisors shall be held accountable for their employees’ appearance, thereby ensuring that officers are wearing the appropriate uniform for their assignment, uniforms are neat, pressed and professional in appearance, and that plainclothes sworn personnel are dressed in a neat and professional manner consistent with their position assignment.


Accountability Statement

All employees are expected to fully comply with the guidelines and timelines set forth in this written directive. Failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action. Responsibility rests with the division commander to ensure that any violations of policy are investigated and appropriate training, counseling and/or disciplinary action is initiated.


Uniform Procedures

  1. Uniform Distribution and Maintenance
    1. Each sworn employee shall receive a set amount of uniforms from the Property Manager, who shall record and maintain an individual record of inventory for each officer. The type of uniform an officer receives is determined by their current position.
      1. Captains and above shall be issued long and short sleeve white shirts.
      2. Lieutenants and below shall be issued the standard long and short sleeve grey shirts.
  2. Types of Uniforms 
    1. Formal Dress Uniform: The formal dress uniform shall be assigned to any sworn employee with a rank of Captain and above. The design and appearance of the formal uniform shall be at the discretion of the Chief of Police and each rank shall be designated as explained in section “J” of this written directive. The wearing of decorations and awards is mandatory with the formal dress uniform.
    2. Class A Uniform:
      1. The Class A uniform shall consist of Class A trousers, hat, hat shield, long sleeve shirt, necktie, duty belt with required equipment, and plain toe polished black shoes or boots. The wearing of decorations and awards is optional when wearing the Class A uniform. Class A pants will have a vertical grey stripe on the outside of each leg. The bottom edge of the pants shall slightly touch the top of the shoes. For daily wear, officers are not required to wear the Class A hat with the uniform.
      2. Lieutenants and above shall only wear the Class A uniform pants with long or short sleeve shirts, unless inappropriate for training or as approved by the Chief.
      3. The Class A uniform (long sleeve with necktie) will be worn when testifying in a circuit court, federal court or any court outside of the City of Richmond.
      4. All long sleeve shirts shall have seniority hash marks on the lower left sleeve. Each hash mark represents five years of service with the VCU Police Department. Any employee with previous law enforcement experience with a certified police agency shall be certified for those years of service.
    3. Class B Uniform:
      1. A Class B basic duty uniform (for sergeants and below) consists of a short sleeve or long sleeve shirt, hat, hat shield (when ordered by Chief of Police or for funeral attendance), duty belt with required equipment, and plain toe polished black boots or department-approved tennis shoes that are solid black in color. Class B pants have a cargo pocket on each pant leg, and the bottom edge of the pants must slightly touch the top of the shoes.
    4. General:
      1. All uniformed sworn officers will display a badge and nametag.
      2. For daily wear, the wearing of awards and decorations are optional.
      3. T-shirts shall be worn with the short sleeve shirt. The T-shirts may be white or black. T-shirts must fit appropriately and be covered by the uniform and only visible at the neckline.
      4. Officers may wear department-approved baseball caps with the Class B uniform. The fur, trooper-style caps and the department-issued, embroidered “VCU Police” knit beanie cap may be worn. All other skullcaps, watch caps, etc. are prohibited.
      5. For daily wear, lieutenants and below may wear a black turtleneck with a long sleeve shirt. The turtleneck may be embroidered with “VCUPD” in block letters, silver for officers, and gold for sergeants and lieutenants. Mock turtlenecks will also be allowed under these same provisions.
      6. For daily wear, officers may wear a short sleeve or long sleeve uniform based upon an officer’s own level of comfort, with due consideration for the type of assignment, and maintaining the professional image of the department. Due to changing weather conditions, a jacket or authorized sweater may be worn with the short sleeve shirt.
      7. Career Development Level Indication – Officers enrolled in the Career Development Program who have reached the level of Law Enforcement Officer IV will be provided with an insignia indicating this level.
    5. Additional Approved Uniforms: The below listed additional equipment is to be worn when officers are working the stated assignments only. All specialized equipment will be returned to the Property Manager when an officer is transferred out of the unit and shall be modified on the officer’s individual record of inventory.
      1. Bicycle Officers: Only those uniforms issued and/or authorized by the department shall be worn when assigned to bike patrol (Class B uniform). Bike shorts are not permitted at court proceedings.
      2. Under special circumstances, with the approval of the Chief of Police, there may be exceptions for additional approved uniforms.
      3. Sworn officers are not permitted to participate in ‘casual Friday’ wear.


Designation of Rank

The department designates rank through the use of sleeve ornamentation and insignia of grade, which are worn on the shirt collar. Sergeants and above will wear a gold badge and shield indicating the rank, a gold strap on the hat, and gold buttons on the uniform jacket. Other rank designations are as follows:

  1. Chief of Police:
    1. Gold eagles worn on each shoulder of the dress coat and shirt collar.
    2. Hat visor to contain gold rank embroidery.
  2. Deputy Chief of Police:
    1. Silver oak leaf worn on each shoulder of the dress coat and shirt collar.
    2. Hat visor to contain gold rank embroidery.
  3. Majors:
    1. Gold oak leaf worn on each shoulder of the dress coat and shirt collar.
    2. Hat visor to contain gold rank embroidery.
  4. Captains – Two gold bars worn on each shoulder of the dress coat and shirt collar.
  5. Lieutenants – One gold bar on each shirt collar.
  6. Sergeants – Three chevrons on each sleeve, points of which shall be almost touching the bottom center of the shoulder patch. Acting Sergeants should wear collar chevrons.


Body Armor

  1. Both during on-duty and off-duty employment, when in uniform, sworn employees shall wear body armor, unless exempted. In general, body armor is considered mandatory, with the limited exceptions noted below. The Chief of Police has the final decision making authority regarding the application of these exemptions:
    1. When an officer is involved in an undercover or plainclothes assignment, the officer’s supervisor shall determine if the use of body armor would compromise the operation.
    2. When the Chief of Police or their designee determines that circumstances make it inappropriate to mandate the wearing of body armor. For example, this may include high temperatures, as determined by the Chief of Police or their designee, where the wearing of body armor may cause heat-related ailments. Otherwise, officers shall adhere to the delineated provisions herein.
  2. Regardless of the above stated exceptions, body armor shall be worn in all of the following situations:
    1. High-risk entries
    2. Pre-planned arrests of felony suspects
    3. Serving any non-administrative search warrant
    4. Any pre-planned police activity, which by its nature, would indicate an element of danger
    5. When mandated by a supervisor due to special circumstances
  3. Sworn employees who are unable to wear body armor, do not fall under an exemption as listed above, and cannot conduct their normal duties out of uniform, shall be placed in a light duty assignment.
  4. All body armor issued by the department will comply with the current minimum protective standards prescribed by the National Institute of Justice (Level IIIA).
  5. The department shall issue body armor to all sworn personnel, and shall replace body armor that is worn or damaged; however, the officer must pay for any body armor that has to be replaced due to misuse or abuse by an officer, following an investigation of the circumstances.
  6. Any officer assigned body armor is responsible for the proper care, maintenance and storage of that body armor in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, which also includes a daily inspection for any signs of damage and general cleanliness.
  7. The Property and Evidence unit shall be responsible for maintaining technological advances in the body armor industry that may necessitate a change in the department’s policies and procedures regarding the use of body armor, a description of weapons and ammunition currently in use, and assessing whether or not the issued body armor can withstand their impact.


Required Equipment

  1. While on-duty, all sworn personnel, unless otherwise specially directed, are required to have the following items in their possession:
    1. Issued badge and identification card
    2. Approved service weapon in an approved holster
    3. Leather or nylon equipment belt, with required equipment, is to be worn with the police uniform
    4. Magazine pouch shall be worn opposite the service weapon and OC spray holder can be worn on either side. The magazine pouch shall be in an upright position for formal occasions. For daily wear, the magazine pouch may be worn sideways, but never upside down.
    5. Issued ammunition
    6. Issued handcuffs
    7. Issued keys
    8. Flashlight
    9. OC foam
    10. Surgical gloves (gloves should be properly disposed of after being used)
    11. Pen
    12. ASP Baton (uniformed sergeants and patrol officers)
  2. Other Required Equipment:
    1. Footwear – Plain black toe polished shoes or boots. During inclement weather, a supervisor may determine alternate footwear appropriate to reduce injury (i.e., solid black athletic shoes). All footwear is to be kept clean, shined, and in good repair.
    2. Socks – Socks for uniformed personnel shall be solid black. The socks shall not be a lighter color black than that of the trousers.
    3. Coats and Sweaters – Issued winter jackets will be worn with both the Class “A” and Class “B” uniforms. The Class “A” sweater may be worn with both the Class “A” and “B” Uniforms. The sweater may be worn without a tie with a short sleeve shirt.
    4. Helmets – While riding a bicycle, officers shall wear the issued helmet, with the chinstrap secured at all times.
    5. Nameplate – A nameplate will be worn directly below the double row of stitching on the flap of the right breast pocket of the uniform shirt, centered above the button.
    6. Badge – The badge shall be worn on the left side of the shirt. A metal or cloth badge must always be affixed to the outer most garments.
    7. FTO or approved unit designation will be worn below the nametag on the flap of the right breast pocket of the uniform shirt centered above the button.
    8. Other Emblems – Any other item that is not issued by the department must be approved for wear by the Chief of Police through the appropriate channels before it is worn on the uniform.
    9. Whistle – All on-duty uniformed sergeants and below, shall have their whistle available. The whistle will not be worn on the shirt or jacket.
    10. Gloves – Gloves worn with the uniform must be black. White or orange gloves may be worn for directing traffic. The wearing of mittens is prohibited. Only bicycle officers are allowed to wear gloves with the fingers cut out for officer safety while operating the bicycle.


Uniform Grooming and Personal Appearance Procedures

  1. Conservative sunglasses (black, brown, gold or silver frames) are permissible for all department employees. Sunglasses shall not be mirrored. In addition, sunglasses shall be removed while indoors, including prescription sunglasses that do not change to clear eyeglasses. Employees shall not wear sunglasses hanging from their neck.
  2. While in uniform, sworn employees shall not wear any type of necklace or jewelry that jeopardizes safety in any way.
  3. While in uniform, no more than one neck chain or exposed necklace may be worn (maximum width = 1/4 inch) and only if the necklace falls within the collar of the shirt.
  4. Although the wearing of rings is not encouraged while on-duty, sworn personnel may wear one ring on each hand on their little or ring fingers. A combination wedding ring and engagement band is considered one ring.
  5. Uniformed personnel may wear one wrist watch and a bracelet. While in uniform, more than one wrist bracelet (maximum width = 1/4 inch) is prohibited, excluding “Medic Alert” bracelets.
  6. Uniformed sworn personnel may wear up to two pairs of post-type/stud earrings (i.e. two in each ear). Plainclothes sworn officers may wear one-inch dangle earrings. The head of the earring shall not exceed ¼ inch in diameter.
  7. Makeup, perfume, and cologne should be worn conservatively. Some employees are allergic to the chemicals contained in perfumes and makeup, so these substances should be worn with restraint.
    1. EXCEPTION: Uniformed on-duty sworn personnel are prohibited from wearing false eyelashes.
  8. Sworn personnel shall keep their fingernails trimmed so as not to extend further than 1/8 inch from the edge of the finger. The fingernail limitation is included as a safety measure. Longer nails impede an officer’s ability to properly operate issued weapons.
  9. If uniformed personnel desire to wear nail polish, it shall be clear. If plainclothes, sworn personnel desire to wear nail polish, it must be conservative in nature.
    1. EXCEPTION: When on-site at VCUHS facilities, all uniformed and plainclothes sworn personnel must abide by The Natural Nail Policy implemented by VCUHS (see The Hand Hygiene Policy IC.CL.002). The Natural Nail Policy PROHIBITS all VCUHS assigned personnel from wearing any fingernail product, including but not limited to: standard polish, UV cured gel polish, glitter, embellishments, wraps, silks, strengtheners, or any other nail products.
  10. Uniformed on-duty personnel are only permitted to utilize Bluetooth devices while operating a vehicle. The use of Bluetooth devices is prohibited by uniformed, on-duty personnel when they are not operating a vehicle.
  11. Tattoos:
    1. Tattoos on the face and/or neck are prohibited for all department personnel. Tattoos that could be considered offensive to the public or members of the VCU community shall be concealed while onduty. Concerns regarding the nature of exposed tattoos shall be addressed by the employee’s supervisor.
  12. Body Piercing:
    1. Department employees shall only wear the type, size, and number of earrings as authorized in this policy in Section F above; no other body piercing jewelry is permitted. While on-duty, department members are prohibited from wearing jewelry in their tongue, nose, eyebrows, cheeks, or body parts other than the earlobe.
  13. Other Exceptions:
    1. Employees on special assignment may deviate from these standards only with the approval of their commander.
    2. Sworn employees may request an exemption to the above standards, for cause, through their chain of command. However, the Chief of Police or their designee shall be the final arbiter in all such requests and shall set forth the temporary standards to be adhered to by the requesting sworn employee(s).
  14. Uniformed Male Employees – Sworn:
    1. Hair shall be clean, combed and styled neatly. Regardless of style, it shall be tapered on the sides and at the back of the neck so that it does not appear bulky at any point. The bulk or style of the hair shall not interfere with normal wearing of issued headgear. Hair shall not hang over the top of the collar at the back of the neck or over the top of the ears. Hair on the forehead shall not extend below the hat when properly worn nor cover any portion of the ears.
    2. Officers may wear full beards, soul patches, chinstraps, or goatees that are no more than half an inch in length and must be kept neat and well-trimmed along the neck, throat and cheekbones at all times. Officers are prohibited from wearing Fu Man Chu style mustaches, lumberjack mustaches, handlebar mustaches, Van Dyke beards or anything similar in appearance.
      1. If the Chief of Police or their designee determines that any of the approved facial hairstyles does not meet the standards set forth in this Directive, or if a person is not keeping the facial hair neat and well-trimmed in appearance, the officer will be ordered to shave.
      2. Recruits are prohibited from wearing any facial hair, unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption (see page 9 for additional information).
    3. Mustaches – If worn, shall be neatly trimmed and not extend over the top of the upper lip or beyond the corners of the mouth.
    4. Sideburns – May extend to the base of the ear, be neatly trimmed and not flared and shall end with a clean-shaven, horizontal line.
    5. Wigs and Hairpieces – Must conform to the standards for natural hair. Hair color shall be black, brown, blonde, red, grey or some other closely related, natural shade.
    6. Hair shall be clean, combed and styled neatly. Regardless of style, the hair shall not extend below the bottom of the collar at the back of the neck. Hair may be combed over the ears, but shall not extend below the ear more than two inches in front of the ear.
  15. Uniformed Female Employees – Sworn:
    1. Hair shall be clean, combed and styled neatly. Regardless of style, it shall not extend below the bottom of the collar at the back of the neck. Hair may be combed over the ears but shall not extend below the ear more than two inches in front of the ear.
    2. On duty, uniformed sworn female employees assigned to the field shall arrange their hair so that it does not extend below the bottom edge of the collar or interfere with the proper wearing of issued headgear.
    3. Ponytails or braids hanging below the bottom of the collar are not permitted.
    4. Long hair shall be attached to the head by items that do not interfere with the wearing of hats. Braided styles worn close to the head, if neat, are permissible.
    5. Wigs and hairpieces are permitted if they conform to the standards for natural hair. Hair, if dyed, shall be black, brown, blond, red, grey, or some other closely related natural shade.
  16. Plainclothes Sworn Personnel:
    1. Hair shall be clean, combed and neatly styled.
    2. Hair, if dyed, shall be black, brown, blond, red, grey or some other closely related, natural shade.
    3. Wigs or hairpieces are permitted if they conform to the standards for natural hair.
    4. All employees shall maintain their hair so as to present a neat appearance consistent with their job assignment.


Additional Clothing Standards

  1. While on duty or in court, all plainclothes officers shall wear proper business attire.
  2. Guidance for Appropriate Business Attire for Plainclothes Sworn Personnel:
    1. Business/work attire shall consist of a suit jacket or sport coat that is plain in color and conservative in appearance, button front dress shirt (in appropriate color for wear with jacket and pants), and dress pants in a solid (conservative) color.
    2. Shoes
      1. Conservative athletic or walking shoes, loafers, clogs, boots, flats, and leather deck-type shoes are acceptable for work.
      2. Thongs, flip-flops and slippers are not permitted.
  3. It is incumbent on department supervisors to enforce the business dress code.
    1. If clothing fails to meet these standards, as determined by the employee's supervisor, the employee will be asked not to wear the inappropriate item to work again.
    2. If the problem persists, the employee will be sent home to change clothes and will receive a verbal warning for the first offense.
    3. Progressive disciplinary action will be applied should dress code violations continue.
    4. Only department-issued hats are permitted.
    5. Sworn officers working in an undercover/plainclothes capacity shall dress in a manner prescribed by supervision when their mission requires them to blend in.
    6. All supervisors shall be responsible for ensuring that personnel under their command dress appropriately based on their regularly assigned duties. Any uniform or attire worn on-duty shall conform to department policy and the highest standards of professionalism and appearance.
    7. Officers working on assignments in which a duty uniform is not required, may be authorized by their division commander to wear plainclothes consisting of appropriate attire which the officer’s commander deems appropriate for their current assignment and duties.


Court Appearance

  1. When attending court to testify in their official capacity, all sworn department members who are permanently assigned to a uniformed assignment shall wear a complete uniform, unless the officer’s immediate supervisor has excused the officer from appearing in uniform (i.e. light-duty assignment).
  2. Bicycle officers shall wear the Class B uniform for all matters appearing before General District Court or Traffic Court for the City of Richmond. Shorts are prohibited in court.
  3. Officers appearing for testimony before any federal court, any circuit court in the City of Richmond, or any court outside the City of Richmond, shall wear a Class A uniform. If the officer is appearing in the Richmond Circuit Court to submit evidence or for any reason that does not include testifying, the regularly assigned uniform is acceptable.
  4. Whenever a department member appears before any court for any purpose other than in their official capacity, the officer shall not wear a police uniform.


Uniform/Clothing Exceptions

  1. Any employee whose current assignment may require a deviation from the above procedures may submit a request for an exemption, through appropriate channels, to the Chief of Police for approval. If granted, the approved request will automatically expire upon completion of the subject assignment.
  2. Medical exemptions to any of the aforementioned procedures may be permitted on a case-by-case basis. The requesting employee must submit a written request for a medical exemption, along with a physician’s statement detailing the need for an exemption and the length of time the exemption will be required, through appropriate channels, to the Chief of Police who shall grant or deny the request.
  3. Reasonable religious accommodations to the aforementioned procedures may be permitted on a caseby-case basis. The requesting employee must provide written notice of the need for a religious accommodation, the length of time the accommodation will be required and that it is being requested due to a conflict between religion and work, through appropriate channels, to the Chief of Police for review.


Maintenance of Uniforms

  1. All uniformed personnel shall wear uniforms that are clean and neatly pressed.
  2. All metal and leather items will be kept clean and polished.
  3. Uniforms that show excessive wear shall be replaced.
  4. It is the personal responsibility of each officer to clean, maintain and protect all issued items.
  5. Replacement of uniforms and equipment:
    1. Whenever any part of an employee’s equipment is worn out, lost, damaged or stolen, a Uniform and Equipment Request Form (VCUPD-31) shall be completed and submitted to the division supervisor for review. Equipment that is lost or damaged, through no fault of the employee, will be replaced at no cost. If the officer’s supervisor determines that the equipment was lost, damaged or stolen as a result of employee negligence, the employee may be responsible for replacing the lost, damaged or stolen equipment.
    2. Additional requests for uniforms and equipment will be checked against the database, which will show the employee’s current uniform and equipment request history.
    3. Once the requested items are available, the Property Manager shall contact the officer to retrieve the requested items.
    4. When an employee leaves employment with the department, regardless of the reason, they must return all issued uniforms and equipment to the Property Manager. The replacement cost for any shortages or damaged items shall be levied against the employee before final settlement is made.
    5. Employees will also return all items that they can no longer use (i.e. wrong size, etc.) to the Property Manager.


Related Forms

  1. VCUPD-31 Uniform and Equipment Request Form


Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

5/30/2014 - 4-7 Uniforms and Equipment

6/13/2018 - 4-7 Uniforms and Equipment

4/30/2019 4-7 Uniforms and Equipment

7/21/2023 4-7 Uniforms and Equipment