The legendary rock band, Queen, famously sang, “I’m in love with my car…” Morro Bay Police hope their school resource officer’s new patrol vehicle has local students singing the same tune.
The 2012 Dodge Charger is the oldest vehicle in their fleet, said MBPD Cmdr. Amy Watkins, giving a reporter a peek at the sleek, black car.
Many police departments would surplus and sell a car this old, but in Morro Bay, Cmdr. Watkins said, their old patrol cars are turned into Community Volunteer cars or pool cars, vehicles available for police when they need to go out of town, like to a court appearance. This muscle car had a different future.
It was around Christmas in 2019, Cmdr. Watkins said, and Chief of Police Jody Cox wanted to do something with School Resource Officer, Gene Stuart, something the high school and elementary school kids could participate in and identify with.
It’s a similar concept to D.A.R.E. cars used by officers working that now-defunct anti-drug elementary school program, putting together cool sports cars and muscle cars the kids could call their own.
Morro Bay’s first D.A.R.E. car was a circa-1980s Chevy Camaro. It was purchased at a police seizure auction and has been seen recently still driving around in town in private ownership.
The Sheriff’s Department has a Dodge Viper that was also seized from drug dealers.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Cmdr. Watkins said the Chief had begun to put the idea into motion. The kids were asked what they wanted the car to have in terms of graphics and paint, and many of their ideas were used.
“We thought it would be a fun project for the kids, the SRO and police department,” Cmdr. Watkins said. Ofc. Stuart started asking for donations from local businesses to pay for the Charger’s makeover, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and Cmdr. Watkins said donations pretty much dried up, which she said was understandable given the restrictions that were placed on businesses by the Governor.
“It was put on the back-burner,” she explained. But Chief Cox and Ofc. Stuart didn’t give up on the idea. “They were motivated to get it done.”
So instead of the kids designing the decals, the department got creative and put together the design, ordering the special decals from The Graphics Shop and having Goofy Graphics install them.
“We wanted to do this in-person [with the school kids] but COVID put a damper on that,” Cmdr. Watkins said.
They knew the high school kids wanted the school’s pirate logo on the car. “That was a big part of it,” she said. They also designed another for the Del Mar Dolphins, the mascot of the local elementary school.
The department’s official logo, which features a MBPD badge, was also redesigned.
The Charger was repainted by MAACO, and a blue racing stripe was added. The stripe, “Makes it a little more sports car-ish,” she said. The car’s new rims were from Hinson’s Tire here in Morro Bay. “We’ve been able to keep it pretty much local,” Cmdr. Watkins said of the people who’ve contributed to it.
They took the emergency light bar off the roof and Drive Customs of SLO installed red and blue lights in the car’s interior, that way it can still be used as a regular patrol car. “It’s still a fully-functioning patrol car,” Cmdr. Watkins said, “just really cool.”
They also looked internally to find money for the transformation. “It just didn’t feel right to continue to reach out to businesses who are struggling big time,” Cmdr. Watkins said.
So the department has used some of the “Community Oriented Policing” or COPS grant the City gets every year. COPS grant monies are to be used for police needs, and a makeover of an old patrol car was chosen for part of the money. The City normally gets $100,000 a year from the State’s COPS Program, which is population based.
She added that the department hopes the kids will like it, when they finally get to go back to school. Local school children have been doing online learning since the start of the pandemic last March.
“There was good interest when we presented the idea to the student body,” Cmdr. Watkins said. “We’re excited for when the kids come back and they get to see it on a daily basis.”