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Hennepin EMS overhauls uniforms to distinguish themselves from police, sparking internal backlash

Tired of being confused for law enforcement, Hennepin EMS paramedics will soon trade their trademark brown uniforms for blue ones “to better distinguish their role as emergency medical services.”

The change, requested by Hennepin Healthcare, was made because some paramedics “didn’t feel safe being perceived as law enforcement at a scene” during last year’s mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd, said Mike Trullinger, a spokesman for Hennepin EMS. The agency is run by Hennepin Healthcare System, a subsidiary of the county that also operates HCMC and 10 clinics.

“Our current uniforms, the brown ones, they’re pretty much an exact match for the Hennepin County sheriff’s uniforms and, to some extent, State Patrol,” Trullinger said. “If you’re flying on an airline and the seats were found out to be super flammable, you’d want to change those seats.”

For its new uniforms, the agency is ditching its brown-on-brown color scheme for an all-navy-blue get-up. Inside the agency, some paramedics say the new uniforms still resemble police garb. Others complained about tampering with decades of tradition behind the “UPS brown” uniforms.