Canada's best dressed police vehicles

Dave Brown
December 31, 2010
By Dave Brown
In our annual best dressed police vehicles contest, Blue Line Magazine recognizes visibility, creativity, community identity and readability in the design of graphics and logos. These are literally the calling cards of the police service for the community and we have seen some very innovative and clever designs over the years. One trend becoming more popular today is an emphasis on the importance of visibility of marked police cars for both daytime and night. The reality of police work is that officers are more likely to be injured in traffic accidents than any other single cause and collisions still remain the leading cause of death for Canadian officers.

In our annual best dressed police vehicles contest, Blue Line Magazine recognizes visibility, creativity, community identity and readability in the design of graphics and logos. These are literally the calling cards of the police service for the community and we have seen some very innovative and clever designs over the years.

One trend becoming more popular today is an emphasis on the importance of visibility of marked police cars for both daytime and night. The reality of police work is that officers are more likely to be injured in traffic accidents than any other single cause and collisions still remain the leading cause of death for Canadian officers.

Ironically, as light bars get brighter and more aerodynamic, they also become smaller and less visible when not lit. This was one of the driving forces behind the redesign initiative of this year’s winner: the Winnipeg Police Service’s clean and simple new design. its layout reveals some clever touches and maximizes use of the latest technology in reflective materials.

Instantly identifiable as a police car – day or night – the design combines a nod to tradition with a modern emphasis on officer safety. Every graphic element on the car is made from highly reflective material. Blue Line congratulates the Winnipeg Police Service, chief Keith McCaskill and the officers and citizens who contributed to this new look.

Overall finalists for this year’s contest were again selected by Blue Line and Erik Young and his panel of judges at policecanada.ca and judged on a scale that awards points for creativity, identity and readability of each entry. Here are the 2011 winners:

h2. Best Dressed Vehicle

h3. First place: Winnipeg Police service

It’s no secret there is a trend back towards traditional black and white police cars. While we recognized the innovation and boldness in the earliest designs, we still like vehicles that stand out from the norm. This one does.

The wide use of reflective elements not only silhouettes the car but also clearly indicates its direction of travel. The prominent and clearly readable “POLICE” on the sides and rear were cut from Reflexite V92 Daybright, with up to ten times the reflectivity ratings of previous materials. The black side panels and white lettering were all custom-made from 3M 680CR reflective material, specifically designed to angularly reflect vehicle headlights straight back toward their source.

The black C-pillar panel really helps tie the entire layout together in a unique way. Plus, unlike many of the black and white designs popular today, the graphics all peel off and you won’t see every second taxicab, private security company or traffic-ticket ‘expert’ driving one down the streets of Winnipeg four years from now.

With input from both within the agency and the community, it is immediately obvious why this particular design became the hands-down favourite of all WPS officers.

h3. Second place: stirling-rawdon Police service

Located 20 minutes north of Belleville, the Ontario township of StirlingRawdon is a charming village of 2,000 residents. Just to prove that you don’t need a huge budget or large agency to come up with clever graphics, the service entered this sharp new design for 2011.

The “POLICE” is nicely offset using a black drop-shadow effect against a blue background graphic. The blue is almost exactly the same colour as Blue Line’s own corporate identity, but that fact had nothing to do with the judging, of course.

This vehicle was near the top of everyone’s list from day one. The community name in a scripted font was a bit of a bold move and usually only works if done as clearly and tastefully as it is here. The residents of Stirling-Rawdon are justifiably proud of their community and, having just turned down an initiative to turn policing over to the province, are also clearly proud of their police service.

h3. Third place: r.m of Vanscoy Police service

If you thought the township of Stirling-Rawdon was small, you haven’t been to Vanscoy, Saskatchewan. Located up Highway 7 near Saskatoon, the entire village is less than 400 residents and fewer than 2,200 people live in the entire rural municipality.

While the area may remind folks of the fictional town of Dog River from the TV series Corner Gas, the police service is obviously not afraid of boldness and colour in its choice of graphics. They not only silhouette the shape of the truck day and night, the reflective graphics also offer a clear indication of its direction of travel. Normally, it’s hard to make traditional red and blue on white stand out from the crowd but the service did it in a clean way that also clearly identifies the community it serves.

The blue “POLICE” is outlined in black and also has elements of a gradient to the shading; something usually difficult to pull off and still keep readable. While the graphics seem simple, a lot of thought went into this design.

h2. Best Dressed Tribal Police

h3. First place: Walpole island Police service

Home to aboriginal people for more than 6,000 years, Walpole Island and the surrounding region are called Bkejwanong or “where the waters divide.” Headquartered in Wallaceburg, Ontario the Walpole Island Police Service has a fresh new community police station and community identity on its vehicles.

It uses a bold outline on the lettering of “POLICE” and is not afraid of letting the side graphic take up almost half the height of the door panels. The black and grey is offset with a nice amount of colour in the crest and the name of the community is instantly readable.

h3. Second place: Pessamit Police service

We admit this design immediately struck our eye because of the unique colour and the way it used a yellow drop-shadow effect on the yellow lettering for “POLICE” and still makes it work. It reminded us of an artistic pen-and-ink rendering over a watercolour.

The Pessamit First Nation is located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, 54 kilometres southwest of Baie-Comeau, and the police service patrols an area of approximately 25,000 hectares, housing approximately 3,000 residents of this Innu community.

h3. Third place: mistissini Police service

The Cree nation of Mistissini is located in central Québec, right on the shores of Lake Mistissini, and the Mistissini Police Service patrols over 85,000 hectares and a community of 3,000 residents. The service’s simple design effectively uses a blue outline and blue drop-shadows to good effect to enhance readability of both “POLICE” and the community it serves. Bold sweeps of blue and white look striking on a black vehicle and one can see how it would work just as effectively on white vehicles.

h2. Best Dressed Police Promotional

Community and public relations vehicles are designed for show and almost anything goes. They can range from the wildly impractical to full-out race cars, but there should always be a fun element to the design. When we saw the new ‘bait car’ design from New Westminster Police Service, we knew it deserved an award.

We ARE forced to wonder, though, if New Westminster Police have ever used its ‘bait car program’ car as a bait car; and if so, did they catch any crooks? Hey ... stranger things have happened with today’s breed of dumb crooks.

h2. Best Dressed Law Enforcement

When it comes to security/law enforcement vehicles, we think visibility is just as important but their purpose should be very clearly marked. We would not, for example, ever award any organization that actually tried to create confusion as to their role. To our mind, the design of the Fanshawe College Campus Security vehicle is a perfect example of how to do it right. Both visible and approachable, the design actually reminds one of the brightly coloured tail fin of an airliner.

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