Blue Line Magazine has been recognizing creativity, visibility and community identity in Canadian police vehicle design during our annual Best Dressed Police Vehicles contest since 2005.
Marked police vehicles are not just transportation; they are a police services' calling card to its community. They must be both highly visible and instantly recognizable.
The most important factor in the design of the colour and graphics on marked police cars is officer and community safety. Years ago, designs were chosen as much for their future resale value as taxis as for visibility but as light bars became more aerodynamic and silhouettes became less distinctive, professional graphic designs were used more and more to increase car visibility.
Graphic design has evolved along with vehicle design. We have come a long way in the nine years we have been sponsoring this contest and today police car designs look a lot less like mobile ransom notes and a lot more like highly visible and professional police vehicles.
Highly reflective decals and vinyl vehicle wrapping are now making it much easier to create a unique design. We have included a much wider range of variations this year to show that bold and distinctive designs can be done without breaking the budget.
Finalists for each year's contest are selected by a panel of editors at Blue Line and by Erik Young and Gerald Donnelly at www.policecanada.ca . Finalists are judged on a scale awarding points for creativity, visibility, readability and community identity. We also look at the directionality of the design; one should be able to tell at a glance which direction the car is facing day or night. We then announce the winners in conjunction with our police vehicles issue every January.
Blue Line is proud to announce the winners for 2013.
First Place – West Grey Police Service
West Grey is a municipality of about 12,000 people, located in southwestern Ontario just south of Owen Sound and geographically encompassing the former townships to the west of Hanover in the County of Grey. It is a regionally amalgamated municipality that currently includes the former towns of Durham, Neustedt, Elmwood, Ayton and Barrhead. The officers essentially patrol the lands and headwaters of the Saugeen River as it winds its way across two counties to the shores of Lake Huron.
Early in 2011 the West Grey Police Service decided to change to solid black patrol vehicles from the traditional white. One of the main factors was the region's susceptibility to extreme snow fall conditions. During winter months it is not uncommon for roads to be closed for days due to snow accumulation. Likewise damp foggy conditions can exist in low lying areas at other times of the year. The former white patrol vehicles were thought to blend too closely with inclement weather.
With the dramatic colour change it was felt the graphics also had to be changed. Working with a graphic artist from Image Wraps and trying several options, the agency unanimously decided that the flowing blue lines at the front identified strongly with the community's geography while the highly visible word "Police" quickly identified the vehicle and its purpose.
The design effectively uses the contours of the car and the highly reflective graphics adds both a flow and directionality to the design. We especially like the simplicity and cleanliness of the design. The incorporation of the agency slogan "Community Partners" immediately under the word "Police" shows the importance placed on this aspect of their service.
Coupling all this with state-of-the-art light bar technology, the finished package more than meets the needs of both the police and the community it serve.
Second Place – Midland Police Service
A police car must be instantly identifiable, even from a distance. We noticed that some police agencies are trading off the size of the word POLICE for a more clever design but the Midland Police Service took the opposite approach. Noticing that its cars and crests were starting to blend in with the backgrounds, it decided to make a wholesale change to a very bold yet simple design.
Interestingly, the base design for their cars comes from one of the largest companies in the world – the Ford Motor Corporation. Midland's idea was to take the basic Ford fleet graphics and build up its identity while maintaining a clean look to its cruisers. It added the crest to a white hood and prominently displayed the name of their community down the side.
Officer and community reactions has been very positive and we congratulate Midland for showing us what a police agency can do by adding a professional touch to a basic fleet design.
The downside to starting with Ford Fleet graphics is that other agencies may have similar designs in the future but Midland was the first to show us the effectiveness and boldness of the design. It instantly jumps out at you and there is no mistaking its vehicles for anything other than a police car.
Third Place – Summerside Police Service
Summerside is the second largest city in Prince Edward Island and its "classic elements with a new twist" design nicely reflects the area and province. The design was a joint effort between the police agency and Autotrim and Signs of Summerside. It was tweaked by the members and then released to the public, which has overwhelmingly supported it. The creative swirl of blue and gold striping is incorporated well with the white doors and actually steps outside the bounds of the door frames to incorporate its flow with the entire side of the vehicle.
First Place First Nations – Six Nations Police
The Six Nations Police Service is responsible for policing the roads and property of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory of southern Ontario. Situated south of Brantford the ancestors of this community have been credited with effectively defending Canada during the war of 1812.
The services' 2013 Ford Taurus is white with red, yellow and black striping. A low profile light bar, LED strobes around the entire vehicle, front push bar and dash mounted front/rear radar finish off a police vehicle ready for work. The colours represent the four races of man, the black stripe forms a forward-looking eagle's head and "POLICE" is prominently displayed in large letters on both sides and rear. It was felt the style, colouring and unique artistic design conveys a message of strength and purpose to the community.
Second Place First Nations – Blood Tribe Police, Alberta
Third Place First Nations – Naskapi Police Force, Quebec
The Alberta Blood Tribe Police and Quebec's Naskapi Police were selected second and third respectively for their effective combination of design, art, colour and identifiable markings. Both vehicles are based on the more popular black theme, which they have found effective with their unpredictable inclement weather conditions.
First Place Law Enforcement – Canada Border Service Agency
Under the general law enforcement category the Canada Border Services Agency has made a great effort at revamping and refreshing its image through the markings of its patrol vehicles. Using a base of white the inclusion of the gold and blue was executed well with the design and flow of the modern day vehicle. Its bold stepped out logo on a field of dark blue is augmented well with the full text bilingual name of the organization on the front quarter. This vehicle, fully equipped for prisoner transport, is reflective of the fully functional self sustaining law enforcement agency CBSA has become.
First Place Community Relations/Promotional Vehicle – Abbotsford Police Service
This past year Abbotsford Police unveiled its new cruiser – an H2 Hummer – that will make its rounds spreading the message that gangs are not welcomed in the city as part of Operation Reclamation. A man convicted of drug trafficking and weapons possession once used the vehicle. It was surrendered under BC's Civil Forfeiture Act and given to the APD to use as a motorized billboard for fighting organized crime. Not only do the messages plastered on the exterior present a strong message but its sheer size alone should reach the public with a creative and hard hitting message.
Honourary Mention – Calgary Police Service
Officer safety and visibility of a design will always be our most important factor in selecting winning designs but good photography goes a long way to showing off these designs. The Calgary Police Service enticed our judges with a series of interesting and creative photos.
While there are no "rules" in car photography, most vehicles look best as a front three-quarter view, shot from a relatively low angle. The tires should be cocked slightly toward the camera and be sure to clear mud, leaves or snow from the tire treads!
If your agency is our winning entry, we need vertical shots for our cover. (Vehicles look funny if they appear to be standing on end.) Don't be afraid to put your camera on its side and shoot vertical (portrait) alignments instead of horizontal (landscape) shots. Don't shoot too tight; give us room to crop. We can always turn a nice vertical shot into a horizontal for an inside page but it is very difficult to turn a horizontal shot into a vertical for our cover.
Resolution should be at least 2400 pixels wide by 3000 pixels high. Don't do any cropping or colour correcting; we have staff who are brilliant at that type of work.