Ann Arborites may have seen the Washtenaw County sheriff’s new customized ride–a 2009 Chevrolet HHR–parked at Wheeler Park or directing traffic at U-M football games. Featuring a black-and-white paint job, red and blue flashers in the grille, and an LCD TV and a powerful bass system in the back, the department calls the retro-styled station wagon its “community engagement vehicle” (CEV). “We are not making arrests with this vehicle,” explains Derrick Jackson, the department’s director of community engagement. “It’s not something to be feared.” Deputy Ray Yee drives the CEV to elementary schools to talk about stranger danger and Internet safety, and shows educational videos at parks, festivals, and community events. When Jackson overheard teens talking about guns at a Ballin’ in the Willow basketball game, they put on a video about gun safety.
The makeover was done by the Custom Cars and Concepts class at Washtenaw Community College. The department’s only requirements were to make it resemble a police car and to post a disclaimer to forestall any taxpayer complaints: “This vehicle was paid for with drug forfeiture funds.”