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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | COUNTYWIDE

Sheriff's Patrol Cars Go Back to Black, White

September 25, 1998|TINA DIRMANN

Sheriff's officials banned them from the streets of Ventura County, but after a four-year absence they are resurfacing to the delight of many deputies.

They are the traditional black-and-white patrol cars once driven by Ventura County sheriff's deputies.

The old black-and-whites were phased out by the department in 1994 after officials decided to save the $400-per-vehicle cost to alter the cars' original all-white paint jobs.

But because many private security companies also use white patrol cars, sheriff's officials felt their units had become lost in the mix. As a result, they have decided to go back to the black-and-white paint style.

"It's a patrol car," said Sheriff's Capt. Keith Parks, a department spokesman. "It's supposed to be visible, it's supposed to be seen."

So far, about six of the county's 120 patrol cars have been converted, with more being phased in as the white cars are forced into retirement by age, mileage or mechanical problems.

"One aspect of stopping crime is to let people see, 'Oh no, here comes a patrol car.' Well, if you have a black-and-white out there, it stands out," Parks said.

The state's vehicle code prevents private companies or individual drivers from owning a car painted in the black-and-white combination that has become a widely recognized symbol for law enforcement agencies.

The design for the county's new black-and-white patrol cars came from within the Sheriff's Department. Capt. Harold Humphries and Sgt. Patrick Buckley decided the cars would be mostly black, with white doors and a white roof. The sheriff's star adorns the front quarter panel of each car.

"The cars really look sharp," Parks said. "There's a sense of pride among the officers too. For the guys on the street, this is a bonus. It looks neat, professional."

Reports are already rolling in from deputies that their new cars are garnering attention, reinforcing Parks' belief that they will increase his deputies' presence.

"You get the looks when you drive a black-and-white," Parks said. "People are doing a double take. They're really noticing."

The cars will patrol all unincorporated areas of the county and the five cities that contract with the department for police services--Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Moorpark, Fillmore and Ojai.

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