Canada’s Best Dressed Police Vehicles

Dave Brown
December 31, 2009
By Dave Brown
Twenty years ago, trying to choose Canada’s best dressed police car would be like trying to find the shiniest vehicle at a Kandahar car show. Now, with the graphics talent of Canada’s police and law enforcement agencies, selecting the finalists is more like picking the winners of a Los Angeles beauty pageant; there really are no losers. Erik Young and his panel of judges at policecanada.ca have once again chosen the most creative finalists and Blue Line Magazine selected the winners. Vehicles are judged on a scale that awards points for creativity, community identity, visibility and readability. We reward strong and unique designs and appreciate vehicles that communicate their purpose clearly and simply without resembling mobile ransom notes. We especially love ‘branding,’ where agencies use a consistent design throughout their department.

Twenty years ago, trying to choose Canada’s best dressed police car would be like trying to find the shiniest vehicle at a Kandahar car show. Now, with the graphics talent of Canada’s police and law enforcement agencies, selecting the finalists is more like picking the winners of a Los Angeles beauty pageant; there really are no losers.

Erik Young and his panel of judges at policecanada.ca have once again chosen the most creative finalists and Blue Line Magazine selected the winners. Vehicles are judged on a scale that awards points for creativity, community identity, visibility and readability.

We reward strong and unique designs and appreciate vehicles that communicate their purpose clearly and simply without resembling mobile ransom notes. We especially love ‘branding,’ where agencies use a consistent design throughout their department.

h2. Here are the 2010 winners.

Charlottetown Police not only created an appropriately themed design for its vehicles but has, for the first time, incorporated chrome striping – literally reflecting the community they police.

I can not recall another agency that has taken such a bold creative (and I dare say expensive) step which sets a new standard in decal design. The lettering follows a standard of clarity of purpose, combined with regional identity. The word “Police” is prominent and the letters set on a field of blue is reminiscent of the city’s maritime roots. Once again we find a police service that carries its police vehicle design as a departmental branding, duplicating the textual designs and colours across all vehicles, signage and corporate identity on letterheads and documents.

Waterloo Regional Police earned second place honours by following a new trend toward high contrast colours, defining a traditional police design revived by the Ontario Provincial Police. Waterloo uses a deep navy blue rather than black, accented with a curving red stripe intersecting with a prominent “Police” motif covering the width of both doors – a striking design which is quickly identified by the public.

The southwest Manitoba community of Morden takes third place thanks to its use of colours in a conservative fashion, yet in a manner which appropriately outlines the profile of the vehicle for high visibility in inclement weather conditions. Once again we find a prominent identity with the word “Police” and a secondary recognition of the community patrolled. Appropriate placement of the department badge to the left of the word “Police” recognizes the corporate branding so necessary for today’s police services. Placing the departmental badge on the outside of the cruiser also gives continuity to the badges, helping people to recognize officers when they are outside their vehicles.

h2. Best Dressed Tribal Police

The Rama Police Service takes first place in the First Nations category. Patrolling the shores of Lake Couchiching, north of Lake Simcoe in Ontario, it has effectively used blue lettering with a yellow outline on its vehicles, both for clarity of design and to reflect the Chippewas of Rama First Nations heritage of fishing the lakes. Part of the long-standing Chippewa Tri-Council of communities in the Lake Simcoe area, Rama First Nation has always been a traditional meeting place and the bold intersecting sweeps of its design reflect this meeting of equals. This is an excellent example of a clean and seemingly simple design but with a strong underlying message about the community and its heritage.

Second place goes to the Kativik Regional Police Force (KRPF), which patrols all of Quebec north of the 55th parallel. This region, known as Nunavik, makes up an entire third of the province. The versatile force patrols a vast area and the bold bear paws on the sides of its vehicles reflect not only the traditional respect area residents hold for the area’s great roving bears but also the fact that they’re one of the force’s constant workplace hazards. The remarkable yellow and brown of the design looks a little like a flat horizon stretching off to infinity during one of those northern sunsets, which seem to last for weeks.

The Kahnawá:ke Peacekeepers patrol the Kahnawá:ke Mohawk Territory on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. It chose a white drop-shadow effect on red lettering and sweeping graphics of red and white across its vehicles in a design reminiscent of the shores of a great river rising upwards to its banks. Its third place design is clear and concise and the placement of the community police phone numbers stands out exceptionally well.

h2. Best Dressed Law Enforcement

The OC Transpo Special Constables patrol the transit system of the Ottawa-Carlton area and its newest design uses sweeping red graphics against a white car. It even includes a distinctive maple half-leaf poking out from the front wheel well. This unique and minimalist design reflects the effort that has gone into it while illustrating how much work goes into making the best designs look clean and effortless. Now if only they can do a retake on the confusing corporate name (OC to me is Orange County – not sure why!)

h2. Best Dressed Police Promotional

No matter how extreme, promotional vehicles still need to convey a professional image. One example is the 2010 best dressed promotional vehicle, Miramichi Police Service’s Chevy SSR. Community police vehicles are designed more for show than patrol so this is where agencies can get creative in selection and design. Examples range from the wildly impractical to full-out race cars. One important factor, however, is that sooner or later, some officer will pull up in front of a high school or drive in a parade and in those situations you want most people saying “cooool!!!” Miramichi’s design is clean and simple, conveying both fun and professionalism without looking like it’s just pandering to youth. Plus, unlike some other ‘clown car’ entries, this one looks like it could pull someone over if need be.

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