COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — There are changes at the Columbus Police Department that the general public will soon notice — if they haven’t already.

Those changes will impact the way the police officers look – and what their vehicles look like.

And, some of the changes are going to be dramatic.

For nearly a half century, Columbus Police officers have had pretty much the same look. They have driven two-tone blue and white cars. And they have worn light blue slacks and dark blue shirts.

That’s all changing.

“The command staff met with our officers and listened to their requests for new vehicles, new uniforms and facial hair,” Chief Freddie Blackmon told News 3.

The new uniforms will be what they call LAPD blue — a dark blue, almost black. And the pants will be the same color as the tops.

Officers will be wearing those uniforms, which cost $625 each, by July 1st. The uniforms are designed to reposition some of the weight officers carry. A vest will also some items currently on a belt to be moved higher on the body, taking some strain off the hips and back, Blackmon said.

Another change is facial hair. For years, officers have been restricted from growing facial hair. That was lifted about two months ago and well over 50 percent of the male officers now have some sort of facial growth.

“The bottom line is our officers that go out and perform their jobs to the best of their ability, investigating cases, answering 9-1-1 calls, and providing services to our citizens,” Blackmon said. “Facial hair is not going to stop our officers from being able to do that.”

Deputy Chief Lance Deaton, who is in administrative services but has spent much of his 20-year career as a parole officer and detective says the facial hair is a positive for officers.

“I think it’s a morale booster,” said Deaton, who has grown a beard. “I think it’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things. But it does have a large effect. … You will see a significant amount of our officers who are growing beards, goatees or some kind of facial hair.”

The changes are not limited to personal grooming and uniforms.

The department has purchased 31 replacement vehicles. They are all Ford Explorers – SUVs — and for the first time in decades, they won’t be blue and white.

The current fleet is Dodge Charges and Chevy Tahoes. All the new vehicles will be one color — a uniformed royal blue.

“The thing about these new Ford Explorers – and we looked at several different options as we were going through this process trying to buy new vehicles and looking at transitioning our graphics and paint scheme and that kind of stuff,” Deaton said. “The thing that jumps out about the Ford Explorers is there is more room than our Chargers. It still has a low center of gravity that is much safer for our officers as it relates to the Tahoe. But it gives you more room compared to the Chargers.”

With the complete police package on the Explorers, the cost is about $53,000 dollars per SUV. That compares to 20-19 prices of $40,000 dollars for the Chargers and $45,000 dollars for the Tahoes.