Fashion police: Robb now mum on new uniforms

Several state sheriffs' departments are ditching their traditional brown shirt and tan trousers for more fashionable, less polyester attire. According to the December 8 Washington Post, Albemarle County will join them this spring when it unveils an edgier black-and-gray look.

The only problem, noted the Post, is that the new uniforms might be illegal.

In the 1960s, state law decreed that deputies must wear brown shirts and taupe trousers. Fluvanna Sheriff Ryant Washington asked Attorney General Jerry Kilgore's office for an opinion on how seriously to take the law and whether there were exceptions.

Only for undercover cops and bomb squads, Kilgore replied in October. Low morale and easily soiled taupe trousers are no excuse. In fact, citizens of a county bucking the fashion code could sue.

Two days after the Post story, The Hook asked Albemarle Sheriff Ed Robb about the new uniform report.

"The official uniform of the Albemarle County Sheriff's Department is the one prescribed by law," said Robb. He refused to say whether new uniforms are in the works, and he stated that pants will remain taupe with a brown stripe.

In Loudoun County, deputies complained about the discomfort of polyester in a light color and were thrilled to reverse colors and go to brown cotton-blend cargo pants with tan shirts– at least before the department found out that even that change may violate the uniform code.

Robb, who himself sported polyester leisure suits in the 1970s when he worked undercover for the FBI as a Florida bar owner to snare Mafia thugs, reports no similar complaints.

"I wear my uniform," says Robb, "and it's perfectly comfortable."

So where did the Washington Post get the idea that Albemarle deputies were going to a snazzier black-and-gray uniform?

"Ask the Post," replied Robb.

Washington Post reporter Karin Bruilliard– who wrote the story under the headline, "In Loudoun, Brown is the new tan"– says, "I spoke to Edgar S. Robb probably December 2 or 3. He referred to new uniforms that were not released. He said they were going to get them in the spring."

And the Post has gotten no requests for corrections to the story, according to Bruilliard.

Charlottesville Sheriff Cornelia Johnson knows some sheriffs' offices have adopted a different uniform. She's aware of the state law, but that's not the main reason she intends to keep the polyester brown and tan. "I'm a traditional person," says Johnson. "I don't plan to change."

Not a regulation hat: Sheriff Ed Robb in the otherwise traditional sheriff's uniform.

Her only crime was looking good– Cornelia Johnson is stylin' in her traditional Smokey-the-Bear sheriff's hat.