SB 480 – Prohibits Law Enforcement From Wearing Uniforms Resembling Military Uniforms – For Public Education

CATEGORY: Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education
DATE: Nov 12, 2020

SB 480 prohibits any department or agency, including public educational agencies, other than the Department of Fish and Wildlife that employs peace officers from authorizing or allowing its employees to wear any uniform that is “substantially similar” to a uniform used by the armed forces or a state militia.

Under the bill, a uniform is “substantially similar” to a uniform used by the armed forces or a state militia and therefore prohibited, if it resembles an official uniform of the United States Armed Forces or a state active militia closely enough that an ordinary person might believe the person wearing the uniform is a member of the armed forces or state militia. 

However, a uniform is not “substantially similar” to a uniform used by the armed forces or a state militia if it includes at least two of three specified components:

A badge or star (or a facsimile thereof) mounted on the chest area;

A patch on one or both sleeves displaying the insignia of the employing public educational institution; and

The word “Police” or “Sheriff” prominently displayed across the back or chest area of the uniform.

Separately, SB 480 also prohibits law enforcement agencies from authorizing or allowing employees to wear a uniform made with a camouflage print or pattern.

The bill specifies that the prohibitions apply to any personnel who are assigned to uniformed patrol, uniformed crime suppression, or uniformed duty at any event – including protests and demonstrations, or similar disturbances.

However, these prohibitions do not apply to members of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, sniper team, or tactical team when engaged in a tactical response or operation.

Law enforcement agencies should review their current peace officer uniforms and make necessary adjustments to ensure compliance with these new requirements.

(SB 480 adds Section 13655 to the Penal Code.)