99% Invisible: The Blazer Experiment

Nov 11, 2016

On the November 11, 2016 edition of 99% Invisible.

In 1968, the police department in Menlo Park, California hired a new police chief. His name was Victor Cizanckas and his main goal was to reform the department, which had a strained relationship with the community at the time.

The 1960s had been a turbulent decade in Menlo Park, a small city with wide suburban streets and manicured lawns just south of San Francisco. There were big student-led, anti-war demonstrations at nearby Stanford University. Leaders in the African-American communities of Belle Haven and East Palo Alto were organizing to demand better treatment and services. After years of clashing with protesters, the police department didn’t have the best reputation.

Cizanckas wanted to rebuild trust with the community — and he made a number of changes to improve the department’s image. One of the most ground-breaking and controversial was the new blazer-style uniform he implemented [...]