New HPD uniform may strip 'Space City' off shoulder patch

September 20, 2012 5:12:16 PM PDT
The Endeavour's short visit, while celebrated, was a sharp reminder that Houston lost out on displaying any of the retired space shuttles it helped guide through NASA's 30-year program.

And now, the shoulder patch that reads "Space City" could also be stripped, at least from a prominent uniform.

The design discussions have been underway for months at employees' request, according to Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland. But one suggestion is drawing a lot of attention after the huge crowds that gathered to say goodbye to the last space shuttle to ever fly to Houston.

If there is any doubt that Houston isn't still enthralled by the shuttle and NASA, consider that by HPD's own estimate, 200,000 people poured into Ellington Field to see a shuttle for the last time, as Endeavor paused on the way to its permanent home in Los Angeles. And the fact that Texas didn't get a retired shuttle is still a sore spot for some.

"I wanna pop the tires so they can't leave again. It should be in Houston," one Houstonian told us.

NASA helped put Houston on the map, creating the term Space City, USA. And it was incorporated into the shoulder patches on HPD uniforms that are still worn today. But for how much longer?

"Change is not a bad thing, Deborah. It's not," Chief McClelland told us.

The department is considering a change of uniforms, from light blue to dark and from dress pants to cargo pants. Even the badges may be changed.

And then there's the shoulder patch. There are four options, three of which read "Justice with Mercy." Only one has the familiar Space City, USA with flight paths circling the globe.

"I see no connection between the Houston Police Department and NASA, except for NASA is located in Houston and we're responsible for public safety in the city of Houston," the chief said.

HPD employees have been asked to give their opinions on the new uniform options, including the shoulder patches. The Houston Police Officers Union's Mark Clark prefers the Space City version.

"NASA will always have been in Houston and Houston will always have been the place where the first man who ever stepped on the moon, he didn't mention New York and didn't mention Los Angeles, it was Houston," Clark said.

Ultimately, it will be the department's decision. The police chief says the officers' preferences will affect the final choice. There is a chance though the patch that was part bragging right may go the way of the shuttle.

McClelland says it will be the police officers who will make the decisions, even though the union will continue to push for its preferences.

Voting concludes September 27.

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