Hennepin EMS union: New blue uniforms look too much like police

A union representing Hennepin Healthcare EMS paramedics and dispatchers says new uniforms chosen by management for its members too closely resemble police uniforms. 

According to a letter this week from the Hennepin County Association of Paramedics and EMTs, a committee chose "LA PD blue" shirts and pants as the new uniforms for Hennepin EMS employees after the civil unrest of 2020. 

For 60 years, Hennepin EMS paramedics and dispatchers wore brown and tan uniforms that largely distinguished them from law enforcement personnel, according to the union. 

"Our concern is this effort has failed to separate HCAPE members from law enforcement. If this new uniform is implemented, HEMS paramedics and dispatchers are going to look like police officers and abandon the well-established uniform that is widely recognized in the local area by both patients and the general public," the union said in the letter. 

The "misguided aesthetic change" puts employees at risk in the field, the union argues.

Hennepin Healthcare, in a statement, said the new uniforms are distinguishable by "wide reflective yellow side stripes." They also said they are "a color scheme that's very similar to EMS agencies in other major U.S. cities and even right here in Minnesota." 

The union sent letters to nearly 200 elected officials in Hennepin County on Thursday, demanding that the implementation of the uniforms be halted. 

They also asked that the community be given a say in the uniforms and that the full cost of changing the uniforms be revealed to the public. 

Hennepin Healthcare issued the following statement about the uniforms: 

The updated, high visibility uniforms for our EMS professionals will distinguish them from other public safety and first responders, making them more identifiable to both our partner agencies as well as the communities we serve. They are dark blue, with wide reflective yellow side stripes for safety when paramedics are out in the street or other scenes – a color scheme that’s very similar to EMS agencies in other major U.S. cities and even right here in Minnesota. The new uniforms also offer additional size options that are better suited for female paramedics.

There are always challenges associated with change and we understand how some people feel. Paramedics have worn the current uniform for many years - but it is important to listen and respond to what the people we serve are telling us, and then move forward with the best options. Our uniforms may be changing, but the professionalism, expertise, and compassion of those who wear the uniform will not change. We are proud of our paramedics and their 100-plus year history of service.