NEW ORLEANS – A New Orleans police officer retired wearing a light blue uniform shirt phased out after Hurricane Katrina, saying he wanted to salute 18 colleagues who died in the line of duty — and he was dressed down by superiors for a rules violation on his last work day.
Sgt. Robert L. Guidry retired from the New Orleans Police Department wearing "that powder-blue shirt" that had been a beloved part of his uniform for most of his 35 years on the beat until Katrina forced a uniform change.
Guidry had also worn the light shirt to each of the funerals of fellow officers killed during his career. But his superiors didn't see his uniform choice as a fitting retirement gesture on his last day, June 28.
New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley said Guidry was reprimanded for violating departmental rules in his final 15 minutes on the job.
"He suffered the consequences of his actions," Riley added.
New Orleans police had a light blue shirt and dark pants since the first half of the 20th century. But after Katrina hit in 2005, they were forced to change to a darker shirt, police spokesman Robert Young said Thursday.
"During the storm over 300 uniforms were stolen," Young explained. "The superintendent changed the shirt to a dark color so someone who had obtained the lighter shirts would not be mistaken for an officer."
The new uniforms — black shirt and pants — were not popular, Young acknowledged. Officers had complained the new uniforms were too hot for the city's steamy climate, wrinkled easily and looked too much like the uniforms worn by security guards.
Now authorities are bringing back the popular, traditional light blue shirt in time for duty during Mardi Gras celebrations next year.
Still, Young said an internal investigation is under way and "appropriate disciplinary action will be taken" against the officer. He said Guidry's pensions and benefits won't be affected although the punishment had not yet been decided.
"The internal affairs people have been in touch with him and Officer Guidry has indicated he will cooperate fully," Young added.
Guidry was on vacation Thursday and unavailable for comment.
Young said that if the retiring officer had sought advance permission to wear the light shirt, the superintendent would have granted it.