Bradenton's School Resource Officers will cruise the city in style now, after two Manatee High School seniors created a new design for the 2015 Dodge Chargers.
The Bradenton Police Department purchased three new cars for school resource officers, then teamed up with Manatee High's art and design classes in a contest for students to create artwork to wrap on the cars.
The winning artwork was a combination of the designs created by 17-year-old Rachel Hodge, a senior, and 16-year-old Catie Hierak, a sophomore.
While Police Chief Michael Radzilowski approved the final design, he didn't see the design in person until Monday.
"We're all anxious to see it," Radzilowski said as he, Manatee High School Principal Don Sauer and the two students pulled a top off SRO Randy Moore's car. "Wow!"
The formerly unmarked car now features black, red and blue stripes -- similar to lightning bolts -- on both sides of the car, fitting perfectly into the car's doorway arch. The words "Bradenton Police" are marked on both front doors, with an old Bradenton Police Badge underneath. Two more lightning bolts frame either side of a solid blue stripe centered down the hood of the car, with that old badge sitting in the middle of the stripe. The letters SRO are on the back fender of either side of the car, identifying these cars from the regular patrol cars.
The two winning students said it was great to be able to help design the cars, but didn't think they'd be chosen for the top prize as they were working on the project in class.
"I never expected it to really be part of the car," Catie said.
Echoed Rachel, "I really didn't think too much about what we'd be getting out of it."
The contest was promoted through school announcements and the art department, Sauer said. Many of the art and design teachers incorporated the design project as a grade in the class, he said. The project was another reminder of the everyday interaction between the students and the officers.
"It's important to have the whole community working together with the school resource officers every single day," he said.
Both students were given $100 from Radzilowski, who joked that it wasn't enough of a gift for them to buy their own vehicle.
"It won't buy you your own car, but at least it will help you for Christmas," he said.
Bradenton Police Department contracts with the school district to provide four school resources officers to help cover the city's schools. Moore and Phil Ajello serve Manatee High, Mark Hashem covers Sugg Middle School and, new this year, KB Magown is available full-time to respond to the city's seven elementary schools.
When the three new cars were ordered in July, the fourth officer was not yet officially finalized.
School resource officers are meant to help keep school sites safe, while fostering a positive relationship between students and law enforcement officials.
The school district contracts with Bradenton Police Department, Holmes Beach Police Department, Palmetto Police Department and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office to provide coverage in the schools. Each county middle school and high school has a dedicated SRO and certain elementary schools have full-time coverage, while others are covered as necessary.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.