Council discusses police car paint jobs

The city will pay $28,843 for a new police department vehicle, but it won't look like the once-ubiquitous Crown Victorias — no longer manufactured — and if at least one city official has his way it won't be the same color.

During the March 19 meeting, Councilman Steve Dicterow said he preferred a different paint job for the new vehicle than the historical blue and white color scheme, also used for other city vehicles.

"I think this is a good time to consider going back the traditional black and white," Dicterow said. "The consistency with other city vehicles is a problem for me, not a benefit."

Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson, speaking only for herself, said she, her children or out-of-town guests never had any doubt the blue and whites were police cars.

"They set Laguna apart," Johnson said. "Black and white is a very hostile color palette."

Mayor Kelly Boyd advised the council and Dicterow to put the topic on a future agenda.

However during public comment, Laguna Beach Police Employee Assn. President Larry Bammer, who spoke in support of the purchase of the new patrol car that was on the agenda, stated his support of Dicterow's position.

"My entire organization supports changing the color scheme to something more traditional that all of Orange County, except Irvine, uses," Bammer said.

Laguna's patrol cars have a shelf life of about three years, City Manager John Pietig advised the council. Changing the color scheme is up to the council, he added.

"You could change them over time or require the fleet to change all at once," Pietig said.

The police department advised him that the cars could be repainted for about $600 each.

Graphics on the vehicles would be peeled off before painting and reapplied, at little or no cost.  


Color choice

Laguna's police vehicles were first painted white in 1970, according to Neal Purchell Jr., who was named a national "Top Cop" in 1975, promoted to interim police chief in 1981 and full-time chief a year later.

During that time, Purcell added the blue stripe, enlarged the size of the word "Police" and added "Proudly Serving Our Community" to the vehicles.

The blue and white patrol cars were a major component of community policing, — a policy designed to bring the community and the department into a partnership — which was in its infancy in the early '80s, Purcell said on Monday.

"The blue and whites were highly visible — not just the traditional 'hook and book,' but a part of the community," Purcell said.

The blue and white Laguna Beach police vehicles are even more easily identifiable now that so many communities plus the California Highway Patrol and the Sheriff's Department are using black and whites, Purcell said.

"I can understand why some agencies use black and whites," Purcell added. "In towns where there are gang bangers like Santa Ana and Anaheim, the black and whites can be more intimidating.

"But that is not Laguna. Going back to black and whites takes away from Laguna and makes it like every other agency, but Laguna is different.

"They used to call it the Republic of Laguna — it is just unique and I hope they keep the current graphics."

As for the coordination with other city vehicles, Purcell said that was former City Manager Ken's Frank's decision.

"He said people could identify them as official vehicles and call on them for assistance if a cop car wasn't around," Purcell said. "And the patrol cars are different. They have light bars on top and one to three antennas."

Pietig said at the council meeting that the Ford Utility Police Interceptor was a substantial change from the current city police vehicles, earning him a skeptical look from Dicterow.

Only four vehicles are certified as suitable to be equipped as patrol cars, Police Lt. Darrin Lenyi informed the council.

Pietig said he will hold off on the approved purchase until he has had an opportunity to speak with Dicterow and probably until the item is on an agenda.

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