Police in the second gayest city in America have gussied up a squad car with the colors of the rainbow in support of the community they protect.
“I don’t think there is any better way to show this is genuine public recognition by a municipality,” said five-year city resident Matt Dreger of the colorful cruiser. “This isn’t just a flag up on a pole somebody won’t see unless they are in the park or if someone points it out. I think it really shows the heart of the community.”
The city rolled out the rainbow rider in anticipation of Fort Lauderdale’s upcoming Pride Fort Lauderdale festival, February 22-24, and Wilton Manors’ Stonewall Pride Street Festival on June 15, said Wilton Manors Police Chief Paul O’Connell.
“It's pride in our community and it’s diversity. It’s pride in our Police Department,” O’Connell said. “We can do our job a whole lot better as long as we have a partnership with the community. That car is an illustration of that partnership.”
The rainbow wrap, designed by a city employee, includes rainbows on both sides of the car and the words “Policing with Pride” on the hood and rear window. The word “Pride,” in rainbow colors, appears on the vehicle’s trunk and doors. The vehicle will be used for special events.
In a city where residents elected their first all-gay City Commission
in November 2018, a police car with rainbow swoops is just another visible embrace of the local demographics.
Wilton Manors has the second highest rate of same sex couples in the United States and the first highest rate of any city in Florida, according UCLA’s Williams Institute. The city has 125 gay couples per 1,000 compared to San Francisco, which has 30, the Institute said.
Dreger, a member of the Stonewall parade committee, said the rainbow cruiser will be a show stopper when it rolls down the Stonewall festival parade route in June.
“I think the crowd will roar,” Dreger predicted. “Considering Stonewall started from police harassment, we have come 180 degrees in a different direction. Now police are flying our flag. What else could it do but make you happy?”
The Stonewall riots of June 28, 1969, marked the birth of an international gay rights movement, spurred on by violent confrontations between police and gay rights activists.
Wilton Manors police decked out the cruiser in early January well ahead of the two upcoming events so they couldn’t be shamed like they were last year when another city thought of it first.
“Fort Lauderdale skunked us last year,” O’Connell confessed. “They had one of their cars wrapped for our Stonewall parade last year. We are trying to one-up them.”
The festive decor will come off after the June event.
“It’s a wrap. Easy on, easy off,” O’Connell said. The city spent about $1,000 on the decals, he said.
“The few dollars that were spent are significantly outweighed by the popular impact,” O’Connell added. “It’s a great illustration of our Police Department reflecting the community it serves.”