A Beloved Community Police Officer on the Power of the Uniform & Dress

By: Micki Burdick

“My uniform symbolizes, for me personally, trust. If I could sum it up in one word, I would say trust.”

Moses Robinson wears a badge, a holster, a black shirt, matching slacks, and a pair of shiny black shoes as he walks through the halls of a school near downtown Rochester, New York. His attire is the official uniform of the Rochester Police Department. Robinson has been wearing this outfit (or similar versions) for more than 30 years. 

“Generally speaking, people will identify me as a police officer and they also identify me as Moses within the community,” says Robinson. “This uniform has allowed me to have a tremendous amount of exposure and access to people in the community. When people see me in this uniform they believe I’m someone they can trust and someone who’s going to protect them.”

One of the many hats worn by Robinson in his tenure includes School Resource Officer in the Rochester City School District. He explains the importance of clothing in that particular role and how his uniform conveys a particular message to the kids he works with and the community he serves in general.

“Being in schools, wearing the uniform, kids tend to see officers different than they would see on the street,” says Robinson. “If kids only see police officers in the street they’ll never get a chance to know them – then the officers won’t have the opportunity to make relationships with the kids.”

Robinson’s job is not merely about making friends, but he also works to create a safe environment for the children he assists on a daily basis. Working in Rochester City Schools, Robinson says there are a number of challenges unique to the community he serves. Knowledgeable about gang symbols and the use of gang colors, as well as working with youth in general, Robinson knows the significant impact clothing can have on a child’s development, self-esteem, and safety.   

“Clothing is identity; it’s who you are. That’s why I think kids who are poor will suffer from a self-esteem problem because they see kids who have nice things, and they don’t,” adds Robinson. “If you look at a certain age of kids, they are going to acknowledge where they are at in society based upon their clothing, their shoes, their jewelry. It becomes very powerful.”

Robinson explains that he speaks from experience. He went through similar issues as a young man and understands the effect clothing and dress can have on individuals and society.

“I grew up very poor, and there were times I couldn’t go to school because I didn’t have any clothes. Society makes so much out of wearing clothes, styles. You measure yourself with what’s around you.”

Overall, Robinson has a solid grasp on the meaning clothing can give to a person or community of individuals. He believes that dress helps reveal the many realms of a person’s life – that goes for his uniform as well.

“The characteristics of wearing a uniform, it makes people feel a host of things. But it should make the person who wears it feel like they’re appreciated, respected, honored, valued. And for the most part, that’s how I feel.”

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