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Back to Black and White

Officer Willie Washington, left, shows off the new design for Waterloo's police cars. The design was the work of Sgt. Mark Langenwalter, center. Officer Steve Bagenstos drives a car with the current design.
RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer
By JEFF REINITZ, Courier Staff Writer

WATERLOO --- The new look of the Waterloo Police Department's squad cars has something familiar about it.

After a decade of gold-and-red striping, the police cruisers will be going back to black and white.

"It's back to the days of 'Adam 12,'" said Sgt. Mark Langenwalter, who floated the design that was picked by the majority of officers in an unofficial poll.

The first new car hit the streets last week. Another five are close behind, and more will follow over the years.

What had been a white Ford Crown Victoria with gold stripes down the length and the department's red griffin logo on a gold background on the door now looks something like the cars Waterloo officers drove in the 1960s and 1970s.

The new Crown Victorias are white with black fronts and backs. The red griffin still adorns the door, but his gold field is gone.

There is just something about a black-and-white car that says law enforcement, said Chief Thomas Jennings, who signed off on the design.

Topping the redesign will be a sleek, low-profile light bar. The red and blue top lights will be produced by light-emitting diodes instead of traditional bulbs.

Jennings said the LEDs give off stronger light for greater visibility while significantly reducing the drain on the squad car's electrical system. This is important now that police cruisers are fitted with a wide array of communications and crime-fighting gadgets.

Because the light bars are on backorder, the most of the cars still had old Vector-style lights as of late last week.

Residents will see both new and old designs on the streets for some time.

To save money, the new paint scheme will he phased in as the police department rotates out old cars and buys replacements.

The first six were painted by Hawkeye Community College. In the future, the squad cars will come painted direct from the factory, Jennings said. He said it will take a few years for the rotation to run its course, and the new paint job will actually be a little cheaper.

The cars, which are the Crown Victoria's Police Interceptor package, cost about $20,000 new, regardless of the paint job. The price goes to up $30,000 when factoring in the dash-top computers, cameras and radar.

The department adopted the current yellow-and-red stripes shortly after Bernal Koehrsen became police chief in 1990. Officers began asking about the possibility for a change when Jennings took over in 2000.

The idea slowly gathered momentum over the years and matured in the fall when Langenwalter came up with more than 20 designs. They ranged from the current look to a "ZZ-Top style" with a zigzag in the striping.

The black-and-white retro was included in the lineup almost as an afterthought, but it won in an informal survey of officers, Langenwalter said.

Many of the people on the force grew up watching television shows like 'Adam 12' that featured the two-tone paint job, Langenwalter.

Besides, from the new Volkswagen Beetle to the new Pontiac Thunderbird, everything is going retro these days, Langenwalter said.
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