Back the Blue: Troopers’ hats a symbol of professionalism

  • Sunshot by Grayson Williams — Georgia State Patrol Post 52 commander Tracy Webb, left, and Trooper Jesse Lamb, right, show off their trooper hats, which they say are a symbol of professionalism.
    Sunshot by Grayson Williams — Georgia State Patrol Post 52 commander Tracy Webb, left, and Trooper Jesse Lamb, right, show off their trooper hats, which they say are a symbol of professionalism.

There’s a myth circulating. Some people will tell you if you receive a ticket from a Georgia State Patrol trooper, and the trooper isn’t wearing the iconic hat, then the ticket is void.
While the myth isn’t fact, and it’s not recommended you test it out, odds are you won’t see a state trooper without the hat on regardelss — at least in a professional setting.
“It’s something you work for in trooper school,” GSP Post 52 Commander Tracy Webb said about the hat. “It kind of keeps you motivated to complete your goals to get through trooper school.”
Upon graduating from GSP Trooper School at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, troopers earn the right to wear the uniform, including the hat. When troopers walk across the stage, Webb said they receive the hat as part of the ceremony.
“It gives you a sense of accomplishment,” Webb said.
Trooper Jesse Lamb graduated nearly two years ago from the program and remembers quite well the vigorous training he went through to earn the hat. He said it represents a lot.
“A lot of hard work, dedication and time has paid off,” Lamb said about what it symbolizes. “It’s a long process. It’s tough. It’s difficult.”
Lamb said there are those who make the trip to trooper school with thoughts of easing by and don’t make it.
“Some go down there and in their minds they think it’s going to be a cake walk and they never see the end of it,” Lamb said. “So, you have to stay focused and you have to stay motivated to push yourself.”
The training is extensive, troopers said. GSP Trooper School consists of 31 weeks of training, according to the Georgia Department of Public Safety, including more than 100 hours of driver training, more than 40 hours of defensive tactics training, vehicle stops, Spanish classes, criminal law and criminal procedures, firearms, accident investigation and various other classes. But along the way, troopers must complete field training at a GSP post, so the weeks are broken up.
“The mental part is tough as well. The first four weeks you can’t come home. That’s pretty tough on some of the guys who have newborn children or are newly married,” Webb said. “It kind of beats on your mind a little bit, getting up early, staying up late, 2 a.m. PT’s, going out and running because somebody messed up during the day.”
Though, the hard work is what makes graduation special, Lamb said.
“You can’t really describe the feeling. It feels so good that you’ve accomplished something that you made your goal and that you set your mind to and spent the time and dedication to achieve that goal,” Lamb said.
There used to be another rumor that circulated law enforcement circles when Webb was a deputy in the mid-1990’s, he said. Webb said older troopers told him when you got out of the vehicle, either to write a citation or to make an arrest, if you got into a scuffle with that person, and your hat stayed on, the charge was misdemeanor obstruction. If your hat came off, it was a felony charge, where the hat acted as a gauge to the severity of the altercation, so the tale goes.
While that isn’t necessarily the case with troopers, it acts as an example of how important the hat is to them.
“It’s just symbolic,” Webb said.
The symbolism of the hat reflects the GSP’s core values, Webb said. Those core beliefs are trust, fortitude, compassion and professionalism.
“It makes the uniform look more professional,” Webb said. “It completes everybody’s idea of a trooper.”
Just like anything that fits well, some troopers loathe getting a new hat. Webb said he dislikes when his hat wears out and it’s time for a new one.
“They’re like a brand new pair of shoes, you got to get them broke in. Once you get them broke in you don’t want to get rid of them,” Lamb said.
Troopers actually have two different hats, one straw-type hat designated for summer, and a felt-type hat for the winter months. They are apart of two different uniforms that vary slightly, one for summer and one for winter.
As for the myth about writing tickets without a hat, Webb said he’s sure he’s written some without wearing his hat.
“You get into a chase or something and you have to jump out real quick, we’re not worried about grabbing our hat,” Webb said.
But in a traffic stop or crash, or dealing with the public in a professional atmosphere, they’ll most likely be wearing the iconic black hat along with the blue and gray uniform.