Last Tuesday, Santa Monica’s City Council decided by a 4 to 1 vote to change the color of Santa Monica Police Department’s patrol cars from blue and white to the black and white design used by most police departments throughout the state.Council member Richard Bloom mentioned that several years ago he brought up the fact that the current logo and color scheme on police vehicles seemed old, tired and dated and didn’t speak to Santa Monica’s modern and up to date police force. The new design was in response to that observation.The City staff report recommended the new design because it “may provide more ready identification as a police vehicle and greater visibility on the street.” The report also stated that, “There are no increased costs associated with the redesign of patrol vehicles. The new design will be implemented as patrol vehicles are replaced beginning with no more than 40 vehicles in Fiscal Year 2005/2006, with completion by June 30, 2009.”Santa Monica resident Todd Flora told the Council that psychological studies have shown that the color black is more intimidating than the color blue, and because of this residents would be less likely to approach police personnel riding in black and white vehicles. He pointed out, “Our friendly, distinctive blue and white police vehicles work for Santa Monica.” The majority of the Council agreed with Council member Pam O’Connor that the black and white scheme was “very clear, very clean and very crisp.” The only no vote was cast by Council member Kevin McKeown.In an interview with the Mirror, community activist Ellen Brennan lamented the loss of the blue and white design by stating, “All the dysfunctional police departments in the country have black and white police cars. Why would we want to be like them? When I moved to Santa Monica from Los Angeles and I first saw the blue and white police cars my instant reaction was ‘that’s class.’ It sets us apart.” Resident Linda Sullivan also opposed the change. “The fact that we do not resemble LAPD says something about our community. The color difference says we are a separate community from Los Angeles. Our community perceives our police department in a supportive way and the color change would blur that perception because of the way black and whites are viewed elsewhere,” she said.Former City Council member Kelly stated, “When this idea was presented to the City Council by Chief James Butts in the early 90’s, the City Manager presented evidence to the City Council that having police cars that could be differentiated from other city police cars saved the City money in several lawsuits…people suing the police department identified the police officers driving patrol cars that were black and white.” Cases were thrown out because the Santa Monica patrol cars were blue and white.
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