Jump to content

death to the uniform police

Recommended Posts

I got this off of netcommish.com, the Ask Andy column is one of my favorites. Well Andy zings a member of the UP read on....


Dear Andy,


Ive been a Unit Commissioner for just over two years, and I feel that part of my job is to make sure the Scouts Im involved with wear the correct insignia in the correct places. But when I politely ask someone to remove a patch thats incorrectly placed, the response is usually "mind you own business." Last summer at Scout camp, I saw a young Scout wearing three purple youth religious award knots! After I stopped chuckling, I went to his SPL. I told the SPL that this display wasnt in line with BSA insignia guidelines, and I politely asked him to take care of the situation. But dealing with adults is another matter (I suppose that the bottom line is that adults will wear what they want, come hell or high water). Any thoughts about this, Andy? Also, Ive noticed that there are a couple of older Scouters (over 60maybe closer to 65) who wear the Explorer Gold Award square knot, but according to Mike Walton's website, that award wasn't created until 1976, and these Scouters were a lot older than 21 by 1976! Ill probably not ask them about it, but whats the lowdown on wearing this knot? (Ol Andys not gonna print yer name, but you know who you are!)



As a Commissioner, the only thing you can do to yourself thats worse than becoming known as "the council cop" is making a reputation for yourself as "the patch police"! Why? It's pettysimple as that!. Id sooner you shot yourself in the kneecap! Here's my recommendation: CUT IT OUT!


As a Commissioner, your dealings are with unit leadersScoutmasters, Cubmasters, and Committee Chairsand not directly with Scouts, so leave em alone. Your primary job is to help these leaders deliver the best possible Scouting program to the youth they serve. You provide the big picture, the vision, the guidanceand you leave the details to them. If you want to help in the uniforming and badge or badge placement areas, the best you can do is be a shining example, and let it go at that.


As for those guys wearing the Explorer Gold Award square knots, remember that, until 1959, this red-white-and-blue striped badge with the silver knot on it also represented the Explorer SILVER AWARD, and they're sure old enough to have earned that one.


One way you can legitimately help your units improve their uniforming is to conduct the annual uniform inspection that's part of a Unit Commissioner's "job." And, when you do this, keep it positivedon't ding the delinquent; reward the right!



Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 43
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I have enough problems getting the UCs of the units I COR to show up at all. They're the invisible men.


Their ADC wonders why I instruct my units to turn in their charters at Council on the very last day. Maybe if I saw that "year round unit service" promised in the Charter Agreement...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Death to the uniform police....death?, isnt this a bit extreme of a perspective directed against those scouts and scouters who take pride in wearing the uniform correctly?


"A Scout is Friendly....courteous....kind.."

Ok, some scouts and scouters can be seen to be wearing incorrect or misplaced insignia. Some here feel thats no big deal, ok, you are free to have that perspective. But just the same, having a "who cares and what does it matter anyway" attitude towards what some scouts and scouters consider correct(ie, wearing the uniform properly),and then posting under such an un-scoutlike term as "Death To.." What is up with this? I take pride in wearing the scout uniform the way it deserves to be worn, correctly with the insignia I rate worn in the designated places and appearing neat and clean.


For those who seem to feel that the uniform is un-important and have the attitude that it doest matter, may be in need of revaluating why the uniform exists in scouting and if their cavalier attitude towards uniforming may adversly affect a scouts attitude toward accomplishing ANY given task or challenge correctly.


I've said this before. The uniform method is the EASIEST method to practice of all 8 given methods. Imagine if we applied the "whatever you want as long as it makes you happy" attitude to the other 7 methods.


If my rant here qualifies me as part of the uniform police, then so be it. I could think of worse things to be. Uniforms are part of this youth movement. Just wear them....correctly ok?

Link to post
Share on other sites

kraut-60, Ease up already...it was said in jest I'm sure. I feel wearing the uniform is important, and wearing it correctly is important, too. However, as you said, "A Scout is Friendly....courteous....kind.." There are usually at least two ways to tell someone something, and one of those ways IS nice.


Most (not all) of the "uniform police" are not friendly, courteous, nor kind in the way they "correct" people. Is it done discreetly so there in no embarrassment of the Scout or Scouter? Is it done in a nice way, rather than putting down someone for being so dumb as to not know or care about the right way? Why is the uniform put together incorrectly...could you help them out by showing them the right placement of patches and helping them sew them on? Is public humiliation or ridicule used to coerce them to wear it right? THIS is what I've seen time and again from "uniform police" and it drives Scouts & Scouters away from the uniform VERY fast!


Is it a complete stranger's job to "correct" a youth's attempt at uniforming? Or would this be better left to the SM? It would be more appropriate to talk to the adult in charge of the unit and let them handle it.


They're not wearing their patches correctly? They are wearing the uniform. So what if the World Crest emblem is 1/4" off center?!?! Wouldn't you rather have that than NO uniform?!?!

Link to post
Share on other sites

There's an even bigger issue here than uniforming and that is how the commissioner conducts him/herself in dealing with the unit. I have met many very officious commissioners and other volunteers who rise up in the hierarchy of Scouting. These people are the bane of the BSA, IMHO. In most cases, they are people who have no authority or position in business or society and attempt to make up for it by throwing their imagined weight around in Scouting.


As vmpost points out, there are other ways to deal with people in the program and normally you get much better results with less, rather than more, instructing. There are obviously some situations where the commissioner would need to intervene no matter what. Troop mumblety-peg games, perhaps. In other cases, I would hope the commish would chose to buddy up to the SM, buy him a cup of coffee and drop some hints, get the leader into training and help that way.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having been at the receiving end of a "uniform cop's" scorn, I always side on the "put and end to the uniform police" argument.


The year before I became Vice Chief of my OA Lodge, I served as Chapter Chief, and the Lodge Chief always liked to make comments about how I was never in uniform and this was a poor example to the younger scouts. No matter how many times I tried to explain to him that the blue denim jeans I wore with my blue Dickies brand style workshirt was the chosen uniform of my Explorer Post, he always insisted that as Chapter Chief, I should set an example by wearing the full Boy Scout Uniform. It irked him to no end that I would never comply with his "reasonable" request.


Some background is in order for those unfamiliar with the old Explorer Post rules. Back when I was an Explorer, there was no set uniform for Explorers. It was highly recommended that Explorer Posts have a uniform but each Post was allowed to choose their own uniform. There were very minimal restrictions on what constituted a uniform (basically, as long as it wasn't risque or insulting, it was ok). The old Exploring program was similar to both the Venture Program and the Learning for Life Program - the post might be high adventure oriented, avocationally oriented (for instance Native American Dance) or might be vocationally oriented (Police, Fire, Medical Careers) etc. Sea Scouts were considered part of the Exploring Program. The uniforming rules specifically allowed denim blue jeans provided it was elected by the Post (so if the Post voted on some kind of work pants, an Explorer wearing jeans in that unit would be out of uniform).


At the time I was Chapter Chief (and later Lodge Vice Chief)I was registered as a youth in two Explorer Posts. One was an Native American Dance post that had no official uniform - when we met, we practiced dancing, and when we were performing publically, we wore our costumes. The other was a Wilderness Emergency Services Post. This post had a uniform that we elected to wear which consisted of a Dark Blue Dickie's brand work shirt with proper insignia (flag, council strip, unit number, the orange E insignia, lodge flaps for OA members), black belt, denim blue jeans, hiking boots. I was not registered as a youth in a Boy Scout Troop. This Lodge Chief could never understand that since I was not registered in a Boy Scout Troop (either as a youth or as an adult) that it would not be appropriate for me to wear the official Boy Scout Uniform.


At the Spring Ordeal, our Lodge had a tradition of having the outgoing Lodge Chief give a talk at dinner on some aspect of scouting as it related to leadership. Surprise, Surprise, outgoing Chief decided to make his topic the importance of wearing the full uniform correctly to set an example for younger scouts. He gave a talk about what the uniform consisted of, what didn't belong (mentioning blue jeans as a no-no a few times) and then invited a District Commissioner with some experience to perform a uniform inspection of the Chapter and Lodge Leadership (much to our surprise). As we lined up, Chief made comments on how three of the members were wearing blue jeans and this is one of the things he was talking about. Other than myself, the Lodge Secretary and one of the Chapter Chiefs were wearing blue jeans (both had come right from setting up ceremony sites for that night's events). The Commissioner quietly inspected the "troops". When he got to me he asked if I was an Explorer, to which I replied yes, and if jeans and hiking boots were the elected uniform parts for my post, to which I replied yes. After his inspection, he pulled the 5 members of the group that were in full uniform forward. Much to the outgoing Chief's embarrassment, I was part of that group, and he was not. He proceeded to praise the 5 of us, and explained to the assembled mass how my uniform met the full uniform requirement despite my wearing jeans. Then he let the audience know what was wrong with the rest of the group's uniforms - the outgoing Chief was wearing both his Eagle award patch and his Eagle award ribbon (you can only wear one or the other) - oops.


The best uniform inspections I ever saw were back in my Den Chief days - the Cubmaster, an ex-Marine Drill Sargeant, performed uniform inspection 3 times per year at pack meetings. Not once did he ever tell a boy what was wrong with his uniform (he marked that on the sheet and gave it to the Den Leader (almost said Den Mother - you can tell how long ago I was a Den Chief). But he made sure to compliment each and every boy on some aspect of his uniform - a boy could be wearing jeans and he might say something about his shirt. I vividly remember one inspection with a boy in my den wearing no other uniform part other than the neckerchief (he had come to the meeting right from a doctor's appointment and didn't have time to change). This Cubmaster praised this boy on how well his neckerchief was rolled - I could see the expression on this boys face change from the fear he was about to get into trouble to happiness. This is the model of uniform inspections I always tried to emulate once I became an adult leader.


So as for the Uniform Police, I concur with Ask Andy - just Knock It Off. There are far more important things to worry about than patch placement and sometimes, the Uniform Police are just dead wrong.







Link to post
Share on other sites

CalicoPen, what a neat Cubmaster you had as a role model. You can bet all those boys, whether in "correct" uniform or not, remembered the right way after those moments of gentle praise of what was right. THIS is what Scouting is about! :)

Link to post
Share on other sites



vmpost sums up how the post was ment to be taken

Do I wish death to the Uniform Nazis, no.

Do I wear the full uniform - yes.

Do I have problems with adults that are not a part of the unit telling kids what is wrong with their uniforms - yes.


One time I had a uniform policeman come up to me and TELL me, in front of several Scouts and Scouters,that my unofficial jacket could only have 1 backpatch. While this guy that was older than Baden Powell's Scoutmaster was reading me the uniform riot act, I politely interupted him and asked why he was wearing a patrol emblem on his uniform. He stated that he was a proud member of Wood Badge,Beaver Patrol class of SR-1908D2. I then stated acording to the BSA Uniform Guide that adults could only wear patrol emblems and that I was more then happy to help him take that "illegal patch" off his uniform. Well our uniform cop was speechless and quitely left the area. I got a round of applause for sticking to the "Uniform Police".






Link to post
Share on other sites

vmpost - Thanks!


I was very fortunate to have mostly positive adult role models that I dealt with directly as a youth, from this Cubmaster (who was also my Cubmaster as a Cub Scout and encouraged me to become a Den Chief) to a Scoutmaster that recognized that I was not as enthused at age 15 about the Boy Scout program after summer camp (and working as a CIT) and the start of my junior year (I was getting bored with it - my folks were that breed of adult leader known as "super scouters" - both became District level leaders - not that I'm complaining about it) and steered me to the Troop's sister Explorer Post (where I got enthused about Scouting again and earned my Eagle) to my Chapter and Lodge Advisor's who supported me as I stood my ground against "Uniform Cop". Because of my parent's heavy involvement with Scouting (interestingly, they were heavily involved with my Cub Scout Pack through 3 kids but not as heavily involved with the Boy Scout Troop - just regular parents in the Troop that volunteered for the occasional camping trip or fund raising booth manning (Pumpkin Sales) and I actually preferred that) I was exposed to some negative role modeling of leaders in other units.


I just hope all young men in Scouting get the same kind of benefit I got from the village that raised me (yes, it does take a village) and Uniform Cops just aren't a constructive part of that village.


Purce - loved the story - and I can actually picture the guy.



Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Okay. I am the UC that wrote to "Andy the Net Commish". Yes, I was very surprised by his reply, and yes, I was also surprised reading the negative feedback. I can take critism as well as anyone, but I feel Andy was overzealous with his answer. But there are two sides to every coin, right?


Let me explain myself further in regards to the incident with the "3 purple youth religious knots." Only one other time before that event did I make a remark about an incorrect patch placement. An Asst. SM

in the troop I am in had a temporary patch on his left pocket. I know this guy, so he is not a stranger to me. I explained that nothing is sown on that pocket if you are an adult scouter, and I explained why. Well, can you guess what happened over time? He did nothing about it. Just like so many other adults who will wear what they want where they want it. The worse cases are when adult (and youth) wear temporary patches above the right pocket wear the Jamboree insignia should go. That's where mine is.


So, I am at summer camp, waiting with my troop, amoungst all the other troops, for the retiring of the colors. This is July 2004. I see a young scout from another troop next to mine and above is left pocket are 3 youth religious award knots. Quite an achievement to have earned it 3 times over, but no one had pointed to him that you only wear 1 knot with 2 devices. Well, something inside me snapped. I could not keep silent. I didn't see the SM right off so I went to the SPL and explained what must be done. He said he would do something about it. Case closed. Opps! Case reopened and a whole can of worms has emptied out of the can. I don't think that Mr. High and Mighty "Andy" or most other Scouters on this forum would do nothing upon seeing 3 purple knots in a row on a scout uniform. What if you saw a scout with 3 Eagle knots or an adult with 3 BS training knots. Would you let it slide? Would you talk to this individual, or talk to a UC or DC? Yes, there are varying degress of indesgression, but I felt, at the time, that this infraction could not be overlooked. If that's a crime, then I am guilty. I was a UC then (still am)and I felt I was in a position of responsibilty to point out this uniform infraction.


Thank-you for your support kraut60. It is important to set a good example for all Scouters on correct uniform wear. What shows on the outside is a relection of what is within. CalicoPenn--you should see some of the jeans the young scouts in my troop wear. Chains, ugly rips and worm spots. Is that what they think of themselves? If someone wants to make a statement about their attire , okay, that's fine. But I would think twice about what kind of image you wish to display to your peers. Responsible people usually project an appearance of responsibility and confidence. How do you want to be perceived? Once I started wearing Scout pants, I felt more intune with Scoutings ideals and precepts. I started to take on more jobs (too many my wife says), and be more responsible. Is that crazy? Why do women wear make-up, to please themselves or the male species? How do they feel about themselves when they've dolled themselves up? Think about it. I just shake my head when I hear the parents not wanting to buy scout pants because of the expense and the kids grow out of them so fast. I see how my son (a Star Scout) throws his money away on all those stupid video games, or how the parents will spend money on their kids, school athletics, school this or that, all kinds of things, both worthy and frivilous. But buying scout pants? OMG! That would be at the very bottom of consideration.


Since I still have everyone's attention, I have one more item about patch wear. I am a Vigil member of the OA. It seemed quite strange that there is no knot for the Vigil honor. There are knots for Tiger DL and DL, which would take one year to get, but Vigil? All you Vigil's out there, think of all the volunteerism and service you preformed for the OA. How many years does that equal. No one ever seeks this honor. It is bestowed upon you. That in itself is a tremendous honor and I am very proud of it. Anyway, I wrote an e-mail to our new councils DE. (We are the 4th largest in the US now--Northern Star). He agreed with me that there should be a knot for the Vigil honor, but it isn't that easy to get approved. We have a new Lodge Chief so I am going to petition for it again. I did buy a Vigil knot from the Crew 697 website. Do I wear it? No. The Scouting "purists" would have a heart attack, but I feel I have the right to. I only bring this up to get some feedback on what others on this forum think of a "Vigil knot" coming into reality.




Link to post
Share on other sites

MVscouter, you are welcome, my pleasure to support your point of view in regards to correctly wearing a uniform. I intentionally left absent "BSA uniform" from the previous sentence to stress the matter that ANY uniform should be worn only one way(preferably) and that is correctly.


Too often in the scouting movement today,the issue of uniforms is relegated to the back burner and mostly forgotten in light of other more pressing matters with regards to scoutings needs.


The "its close enough" school of thought is rampant in scouting, especially in Cub Scouts where a Cub in a pair of uniform pants is rarer than an honest politician. Cub Scouts is where the boys should be encouraged and praised for their willingness to wear the uniform, but what usually happens? I think we can all answer that without burning up too many bits of gray matter. The parents are reluctant to purchase more than a shirt and maybe a hat. Why? Because the habit of wearing a complete uniform died out a long time ago,and no one wants to bring it back.


How many sports programs will tolerate incomplete or sloppy uniforms? Try none. What marching band program will let a member slide if they show up to a performance with only the headgear and jacket and a pair of non-uniform jeans? Zero point zero. These are all other positive participation youth programs that REQUIRE correct uniforming in order to participate, and most parents have no problem with the issue of uniforms for them. So why is it that the uniforms of the scouting movement get short changed so regularly? I wish I knew, but I suspect it is not the youths refusal to wear the uniform, it is the parents and LEADERS refusal to support the uniform method and the habit of wearing a uniform.


How serious would you take a deputy sheriff who was only wearing his uniform shirt, duty belt,hat and a pair of old corduroys? What would be your opinion of a member of our armed forces on their way through an airport wearing the class'A uniform blouse,service cap and some raggy pair of baggy shorts. All these examples would call into question who these people are and what are they doing, bottom line...we do not give them respect but instead doubt them by how they appear to us. Our scouts deserve to ENJOY the respect that comes from a correctly worn uniform.


Maybe our society feels it has moved beyond uniformity in its youth scouting movements, what a shame if it has. The scouts can only stand to benefit in the publics and their own eyes from appearing to be with no doubts, members of the BEST youth movement in the world.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Its entirely appropriate to point out uniforming errors. It may be unreasonable to expect or demand that the error be corrected. Most errors are probably unintentional and most Scouts or Scouters would be happy to know the correct way to wear a knot or patch.


What I really don't understand is the indignation some express when an error is pointed out. What is gained by making derogatory comments about those who care about the uniform and strive to help Scouts to wear it correctly?


And what's with the title of this thread? The message sent says a lot.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It is appropriate to point out uniforming errors - to the members of your own unit. It is not appropriate to point out uniforming errors to members of other units - unless asked by them for your help or comments. I fully understand the indignation expressed by those who are told by some stranger about their uniforming errors - I don't understand the concurrent indignation expressed by those "uniform cops" who are told to mind their own business.


If your own unit has boys wearing worn and ripped jeans, and chains, then those are the boys you should be speaking to - not to the SPL of an unrelated unit about a boy wearing three religious award knots. Frankly, in the grand scheme of things, wearing three religious award knots is just so inconsequential to the program, especially when uniforms are not required to be a Boy Scout in the first place. Get your own house in order before you try getting everybody elses house in order.


Perhaps the point was missed about my wearing jeans as part of my uniform. Explorer Posts chose their own uniform by election of the post - denim jeans were an allowable option per the uniform regulations of the Boy Scouts of America for Explorer Posts. My unit elected to wear jeans. Any other pants would have meant that I would be out of uniform so when I wore blue jeans (clean and well maintained - that was part of our uniforming requirements) as part of my uniform, I was in official FULL uniform. Wearing scout pants instead would have meant I was out of uniform. These rules only applied to Explorers. They did not apply to Boy Scouts. My wearing blue jeans certainly did not affect my willingness to take on the role of Lodge Vice Chief. The bigger point was that the official Boy Scout uniform was not an available option to me - I was not registered at the time as a member of a Boy Scout troop as a youth (after age 15) or as an adult (after age 18) - I was registered in two Explorer Posts - one that had no uniform and one that had a post elected uniform - my uniform was set, as per BSA uniforming policy, by my Explorer Post. The official BSA uniform could not be worn by me because it was not the uniform of my post. The BSA policy on Explorer Post uniforms was quite clear - if your Post chooses its own uniforms, you must only wear the uniform of your post, you cannot wear the BSA uniform unless you are registered in a troop, pack, or district capacity. I was not registered in a troop, pack or district capacity, therefore I could not wear the official Boy Scout uniform, per BSA uniforming policy.


As for a Vigil Honor knot, I respectfully disagree about having one created. The existing knots are all for awards that are earned. The Vigil Honor is not an earned award. It is an honor that is bestowed upon one for exceptional service to their Lodge and community. Since it is not an earned award, it doesn't fit in with the purpose of the knots, which is to recognize earned awards. With the exception of a few youth-earned award knots, one can work towards earning the awards needed to wear the knot. One can't work towards "earning" the Vigil Honor.


Their is already a device one can wear to show that one has been recognized with the Vigil Honor. It is a Vigil triangle pin that one wears on the arrow ribbon. Other than the triangle pin and the triangle on one's sash, in keeping with the spirit of the Order, there should be no other outward manifestation of the Vigil Honor. In the Order, all members are equal - there is no rank in the Order. Ordeal members and Vigil members are equal in the eyes of the Order. Brotherhood membership is not a rank, nor is it earned - it is a recommittment to the ideals of the Order of the Arrow. Vigil Honor is not a rank, nor is it earned - it is a recognition of exceptional service.









Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...