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By Mike Frassinelli
The Star-Ledger

To serve and protect - and design.

The men in blue from two New Jersey police departments took home the gold and silver, as their off-road vehicles placed first and second in the 2008 International Police Vehicle Design Contest.
From the Atlantic Ocean to the rural northwest, New Jersey had the Best Off-Road Vehicle category covered.
The Point Pleasant Beach, Ocean County, oceanfront patrol vehicle placed first, while the Greenwich Township, Warren County, "Gator" patrol vehicle was runner-up.
Judged by law enforcement professionals from the Midwest, the annual contest by Law and Order magazine of suburban Chicago focuses on the safety for the officer driving the vehicle and the ability to identify it as a law enforcement vehicle.
Judges look for departmental symbols, names in easy-to-read lettering, a badge, shield or community seal, emergency phone numbers and websites, reflective tape, chevron and decals.
With fractions of a second possibly meaning life or death for officers or citizens, it is imperative that police vehicles are immediately and clearly distinguishable as emergency vehicles as they approach and pass at high speeds, contest organizers said.
Other contest categories included: Best Truck; Best SWAT Vehicle; Best Support Vehicle, Command Post, CSI Vehicle; Best Community Relations (DARE, GREAT); Best Motorcycle; Best Ford Crown Victoria; Best Chevy Impala; Best Dodge Charger; Best SUV; Most Effective from the Rear; and People's Choice Award.
On the lighter side, Waldron Police Department in Arkansas won the Ugly Vehicle category - and a graphics makeover- for vehicle graphics that show "no creativity, bizarre graphics, no police authority and/or have no appeal to the public. This vehicle begs the question, `What were you thinking?'"
Along with patrolling and paperwork, officers in the two winning New Jersey towns added patterning and painting to their duties.
Specifically designed for an oceanfront municipality, the Point Pleasant Beach truck responds easily to high-water situations that normal patrol vehicles would be unable to get through, contest organizers said.
It was built mostly by donations from local businesses, and police added custom airbrush graphics.
"The color scheme and unique design really pops out at you," the judges wrote. "This vehicle overshadowed the other entries in this category."
Bought through grants in the spring to patrol areas inaccessible to regular patrol vehicles, Greenwich Township's "Gator" vehicle also assists the emergency squad and fire department. Its olive drab color and yellow lettering is reminiscent of the World War II Marine Corps vehicular colors, contest organizers noted.
The reflective lettering on the John Deere vehicle makes it easily recognizable at night as a police vehicle, and the area's farming heritage is evident by the department's patch.
"Though this vehicle is small, the department utilized the available space well," the judges wrote. "You can tell they put some thought and work into it."
"I thought it was unique when we got it, and we decided to go with the gold coloring used during World War II for Marine vehicles," said Rich Guzzo, Greenwich police chief and a former Marine.
"The department likes it."
He credited Sgt. Dave Voll, a vehicle buff who in the past has striped some of the squad cars, with the design.
Another law enforcement representative - Sam DeBella, chief of detectives in the Hunterdon County prosecutor's office - did the detailing.
Though fast-growing Greenwich borders Phillipsburg, Warren County's most populated and urban municipality, many of its areas remain rural. The four-wheel drive, two-seat vehicle, which can mount a stretcher, comes in handy on farms and also on the township's narrow railroad tracks.
Earlier this month, it was used in the rescue of a man whose pickup truck rolled down an embankment and struck a tree on an expansive property in the bordering township of Lopatcong.
It also has become a conversation piece between police officers and youngsters.
"It breaks the ice sometimes," Chief Guzzo said, "with the kids that might not approach otherwise."

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