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By Sophia Kazmi
Valley Times

DANVILLE, Calif. - Christina Sally may drive the coolest police car in all of the East Bay. Sally, who joined the Danville Police Department last month as a civilian school program coordinator, rides around in a tricked-out, black-and-white 2008 Ford Mustang GT that starts with a push of a button and features a 40-inch flat-screen television that pops out of the trunk.
"It's very unique," she said of her ride. "I think the kids will get a kick out of it."
The car, the only one of its kind on the West Coast, was made possible through a donation by PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield and his wife Cheryl on behalf of their charity Maddie's Fund. No city money was used to purchase the head-turning car, said Danville Police Chief Chris Wenzel. And head turning is exactly what Wenzel was looking for.
"Now we have a tool to get the attention of the youth," Wenzel said.
The car helps Sally in her work with Danville's elementary and middle schools, where she will be teaching safety to the kids.
In past years, a sworn officer was dedicated to work with the younger kids, but budget cuts had Wenzel rethink how to keep the position intact. His solution was to make it a civilian position a move that he said saved Danville $80,000 a year.
Wenzel recruited Sally, a former San Leandro patrol sergeant, from her job as a investigator for the district attorney in Park City, Utah. She has a background in children's safety issues.
Sally and Wenzel attended the police academy together in 1985. She then went to work for the Walnut Creek police and then San Leandro. While working as an officer she taught the DARE, or Drug Abuse Resistance Education, program. She retired from San Leandro in 2003 for medical reasons, then went to work for the DA's office in Park City, where her job included interviewing children who were victims or witnesses to crimes.
She also put on community presentations on Internet safety and child abuse.
Besides being the liaison between the schools and the police, Sally will also put on classroom presentations on whatever topics the schools need her to address, but she really wants to educate kids about the importance of Internet safety.
"I have a strong commitment to Internet safety, especially with cyber-bullying," Sally said.
Terry Koehne, a spokesman for the San Ramon Valley school district, said Danville's school resources officers have been working with the district for eight years. When the program first started, distinct officials were concerned about what students and parents would think of having a police officer on campus, Koehne said, but the reaction has been only positive. The district cherishes the relationship between the schools and police, he said.
"The kids get a different perspective and image of what police authority can be," he said. "It humanizes police more when (students) see them come on campus and talk to them at their level."

Wire Service
 
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