Tricked-out police car eyed to ‘spark conversation’

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — Slick cars have the power to turn heads, drop jaws and get people talking.

And with the help of the Jasper community, Greater Jasper Schools’ resource officer, Jason Knies, is hopeful he’ll be able to better connect with students and spread Wildcat pride with a new work vehicle.

At Tuesday morning’s Jasper Board of Public Works meeting, bids were opened from three area dealerships for a new school resource officer car. The ride — Jasper Police Chief Nathan Schmitt compared it to a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) vehicle that the department would dress up with Jasper decals and logos — would be paid for entirely with donations.

“It would be a benefit,” Knies said. “It opens up those positive relationships with students, and [it’s] a conversational piece as well as it representing the school and the community itself.”

The police department plans to partner with the Dubois County Community Foundation to collect private contributions for the car in a pass-through grant fund.

After opening the bids, however, Schmitt said the department will need to analyze how to move forward. A cool sports car might help break down barriers between Knies and the kids, but Schmitt stressed that utilizing the vehicle is not imperative.

“I don’t know if I want to ask for donations for this project for roughly $30,000 or $35,000,” Schmitt said Tuesday afternoon. “We think there’s just a lot of good causes within the police department and within the city. The community, which they’re so gracious in giving donations, I don’t know if it’s something we want to seek out because it’s a want rather than a need.”

Tuesday’s bid opening was a way for the city to put a number on how much it’ll need to make the purchase a reality. Ruxer Ford provided a quote for a new Ford Mustang for $34,043, Uebelhor and Sons submitted a bid for a 2019 Chevrolet Camaro for $36,228 and Sternberg Chrysler provided a quote for a 2019 Dodge Challenger for $34,552. The bids came in a little higher than the police department was hoping.

Schmitt said at the meeting that the quotes will now go under advisement. The car would be a fully-equipped police vehicle with sirens, lights, a radio system and so on.

The chief explained that the project could be scaled back to decrease the amount of necessary funds, but still accomplish the intent of the purchase, which is to create conversations with students and make Knies more approachable. Schmitt also said the department has been in discussions with donors about giving a used vehicle, which could also be an option.

Talks of equipping the student resource officer with a tricked-out car started about a year ago. Officers got the idea after they saw Jeep Wranglers donated by a car dealership to an Evansville school district.

Students would be more likely to approach Knies and begin building rapport with him if he had a cool Wildcat-themed car, Knies said. He’s heard kids talking about sweet rides in the parking lot before school begins.

The standard police car he currently uses would return to the station and be used for patrol duties by another officer if a new vehicle is purchased. Moving forward, the department does not have a purchasing timeline.

“We just want to make sure that we get the right fit, the right partner and do the right thing,” Schmitt said. “And do a cool project where it’s going to show off the community, show off the school, show off the police department and give him [Knies] a neat vehicle to, once again, spark conversation.”




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