Edgy design has Whitehall police vehicles looking sharp

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 10:33 a.m.

A bold black stripe, outlined in gold trim, streaks across the side of the vehicle. At night, the modern, edgy design reflects for all to see.

“We've gotten so many comments on the car. People are saying that the cars really look nice and really sharp,” Whitehall police Deputy Chief Richard Danko said.

The style, design and make of the Whitehall patrol cars have changed many times during the last 60 years.

The large photo that hangs in the Whitehall police station showcasing the black-and-white 1947 Chevrolet Steelmaker, with a simple print on its side and a large headlight beaming from its roof tells of the simpler times.

The look, comfort, style and sturdiness of a vehicle today matter.

After nearly 30 years of a more simplified, “plain Jane” look, Whitehall police modernized the design of their vehicles with a more eye-catching flair, Danko said. The new look — showcased on the departments two Ford Interceptor sport-utility vehicles that debuted in 2012 — was named “Best SUV” in the 2013 police-vehicle design contest by Law and Order, a magazine for police management.

The contest was judged by law-enforcement and industry professionals, the magazine states.

“This is phenomenal,” Whitehall police Chief Donald Dolfi said. “I can't say that when we did the new design that we thought it would have this kind of outcome.”

The new design was prompted by the retirement of Ford Motor Co.'s Crown Victoria nearly two years ago.

The Whitehall Police Department had a wide array of makes and styles of vehicles during the years. The Crown Vic, the cruiser of choice for police forces nationwide for many years, became a staple in the municipality, Danko said.

“Fords have been so-called good to us so far,” Danko said. “We stayed with the same design and car for years.”

There was a tradition — a stability, almost — with the car and the look.

“It's like a meatloaf dinner,” Dolfi said. “When you think of a home-cooked dinner and you think of things that are always there, that are staples in your life. It was there with the Crown Vics with their entire run. The car was the same. The markings were the same. We wanted people to look at the car and know that it's the Whitehall Police Department, and we're always there for them.”

Yet with the need to switch vehicles, Danko said, it was time to change looks, as well.

“I'm the most conservative, traditional-oriented person,” Dolfi said. “For me to encourage a change with our new vehicles is very unlike me. It even shocked me.”

A requirement when working with graphic designers from Ibis Tek for the new look was that the hood and deck needed to be black and the police patch remain visible on the side panel, the Whitehall chief said.

“That's our tradition,” Dolfi said. “We got to launch a vehicle that still has our tradition, but when it rides down the road maybe makes people turn their head around once or twice.”

Officer input helped the chiefs select the final design, they said.

“It looks nice,” Whitehall police officer Dan Bowman said. “The look's the most important part. It's the first step to the 21st century.”

While many top manufacturers design police pursuit vehicles, Whitehall leaders opted to stay with Ford after the end of the Crown Vic, Danko said. They selected the Interceptor SUV because of its size and comfort for the officers and ability to hold all of the equipment needed inside, he said.

Other South Hills police departments, too, have begun making changes to their designs and vehicles with the end of the Crown Victoria era.

Brentwood police recently purchased two Taurus-style police Interceptors, police Chief Robert Butelli said.

With the new car also came a new look in Brentwood.

A “plainer design” with a “sort of state-police-style” look that was introduced in Brentwood in 2001 when Butelli became police chief recently was replaced with a midnight blue car accented with a white logo.

“I wanted to have ours be distinctive and not be like everyone else's,” Butelli said. “It sets us apart from the others.”

Pleasant Hills police kept their traditional design but purchased new equipment for inside the new Taurus-style and SUV police Interceptors. The department purchased one of each, police Chief Edward Cunningham said.

“The equipment is completely different,” said Cunningham, noting the interior makeup of the vehicles requires new equipment.

Pleasant Hills police purchased one of each vehicle to determine which would work best for their officers, he said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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