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Put to the vote: Fla. community has say on squad car designs

The Ocala (Fla.) PD has engaged the community in a creative and compelling fashion, and by all accounts, the effort was very successful

Tomorrow is Election Day, in case you hadn’t heard.

Across this great nation, people will be deciding not only who will Occupy (get it? Occupy?) the White House for the next four years, but will also cast votes for a third of the Senate, and the entire House of Representatives.

There are statewide offices, local elections, and literally countless ballot measures (from deadly serious to utterly ridiculous).

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to vote by mail or vote early, I encourage you to vote tomorrow. I really don’t care who you vote for, but I do care that you vote (that tha-thunk sound you just heard was me stepping down from my soapbox). 

The Great Ocala Experiment
In the spirit of celebrating the Great American Experiment in a totally non-partisan way, I thought we might revisit a news item posted to PoliceOne late last month in which the Ocala (Fla.) police put four new squad car designs to a vote by the community.

This is a really compelling concept. The PD has engaged the community in a creative and compelling fashion, and by all accounts, the effort was very successful. 

Each of the four designs were the work of Ocala PD officers, and each one is excellent. The vote has now been tallied and the winning design is revealed immediately after the four images below (my personal favorite is the fourth one — squad #857). 

Check out the four designs, decide which would have been your choice, and read the voter’s decision in conclusion of this column below. 

Vehicle 1: Designed by Agent Jose Gonzales and Officer Nigel Hardy

Vehicle 2: Designed by Sergeant Andy Scroble and Officer Patty Mraz

Vehicle 3: Designed by Sergeant Frank Zadnik and Detective Steve Thibodeau

Vehicle 4: Designed by Officers Mark Crandall and Jimmy Pitman

And The Winner Is...
Vehicle #857 designed, by Officer Mark Crandall and Officer Jimmy Pitman, narrowly beat out Vehicle #854, designed by Sergeant Scroble and Officer Mraz.  The margin of victory was just seven votes. Vehicle #853 (designed by Officer Hardy and Agent Gonzalez) and vehicle #855 (designed Sergeant Zadnik and Detective Thibodeau) also garnered a good number of votes.

Because the voting was so close between the two frontrunners, Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham decided that he would task the two winning teams to design the new vehicle using a combination of vehicle 857 and vehicle 854. Many voters expressed that they liked certain designs on all of the cars and thought it would be a good idea to combine the designs.

“There were thousands of votes — maybe as much as ten percent of our total population,” said Sergeant Chaz Maier in an exclusive interview with PoliceOne. “The community was excited and engaged, and appreciated being part of the process.”

Sergeant Maier credits Ocala’s new chief — who is from the area but most recently served as Chief of Police in Cedar Rapids, Iowa — with putting social media and Community Oriented Policing together in such creative ways.

“A lot of agencies across the country are probably trying this, and we’re seeing some real success,” Sergeant Maier said “We had a vote to name our new K-9, and we received thousands of names. A panel chose a few standouts, and after the vote, the person who submitted the winning name got to ride around with that K-9 unit.”

The Ocala example shows that there are many citizens out there who just want to have a small part to play in the policing of their communities, and that when an agency makes the effort to engage them, the ensuing goodwill can be immeasurable.

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