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Black and White Police Cars get “retro” February 16, 2010

Posted by southbendpolice in Feature Stories.
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I was reading an article the other day about the resurgence of  “black and white” police car graphics as a trend in American law enforcement vehicle design.    The article from PoliceOne, says

Law enforcement is a profession of trends and traditions. Few traditions are more identifiable than the black and white police car. In the 90’s, agencies that once sported black and white cars began converting to solid white, green or blue. In recent years, black-and-whites have made a comeback, and street officers are rejoicing.

The black and white theme is catching on here in Indiana as well, with agencies nearby like Elkhart, Shipshewana, Porter and Hobart all sporting a “traditional” black and white themed design.    In studies where a B/W design has been restored, or put in place, there is a noticeable increase in public recognition of the police vehicle, and as a result , of the police themselves.    For agencies that try to maintain a community based approach to policing, visibility of the police is essential in the community.

The street patrol officer must maintain a high degree of visibility in order to collaborate and build relationships with citizens. To this end, having a recognizable police vehicle makes a lot of sense.

Traditionally a two tone paint color has been a cost factor for police fleet budgets, but now the difference in ordering a two tone paint design at the time of pricing a car is typically a $500-600 per-car option.  With the increased popularity of vinyl decal wraps (think NASCAR) to overlay a standard one-color paint design, the difference of ordering an all black car, and utilizing a white door-wrap kit with the graphics printed on the door sheets can be half of that cost, and easily replaced as body damage is incurred.

Historically a black and white car has had the same association with law enforcement as a red truck is associated with fire departments.  One added benefit of the B/W car design is that it does become more eye-catching to the public.  An added benefit to this is not only greater visibility, but in turn, the visibility is noticed in terms of the appearance of more officer presence.

Captain Tim Johnson of the Sunnyvale (CA) Police Department has done extensive research on this topic. He finds that, not only does the public have a positive response to black and white cars, but that officers who drive them are seen as more approachable. Indeed, recent surveys suggest that nearly every department using black and white cars cite increased visibility and accessibility as the main selling points.

With cost not being the factor it used to be for agencies, the increased benefits of police visibility AND approachability, it is a trend that has many positive attributes.

Would you like to see them locally?

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Comments

1. Doug - February 16, 2010

I like the black and whites. Let’s see more of them!

2. Holt - March 1, 2010

I think they look great…I like the design and it definitely makes the cars stand out better than the plain white with SBPD on the side.


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