MARION, SC (WMBF) – The Marion Police Department has a new look, and it is causing some confusion among people in the city.
The Marion Police Department is using a $40,000 grant to replace some of its older vehicles with used cars from South Carolina Highway Patrol. They purchased seven cars, two of which are unmarked and are being used by undercover officers.
This is the first time the department is replacing their cars with cars from another law enforcement agency.
"We utilize our cars 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said MPD Chief Willie Smith. "That puts quite a bit of stress and strain on the vehicle."
Although the replacement cars are used, he said they are in good condition and are more durable.
The department has also adopted a new color scheme, which, some say, makes it difficult to tell the two units apart.
"Sometimes, when I get pulled over I think it's the state trooper pulling me over, but really it's Marion Police," said Jamal Hemingway, noting that because state-issued speeding tickets carry heftier fines, he says it makes getting pulled over all-the-more stressful. "But now that I see it's a Marion cop, I feel better."
The original police cars are red white and blue; the highway patrol cars are gray. Using gray as part of the new color scheme is another way the department is cutting costs.
Smith said purchasing the used Highway Patrol allowed the department to get five more cars than they would have gotten if they had bought brand new cars. Adding more cars to the line-up means less mileage is put on each vehicle, further saving the department money on maintenance costs.
The cars come equipped with police apparatuses that the original cars do not have, including a control pad for the lights and sirens, a shot gun holder and an external light bar. Officers say these lights are much brighter and make their presence better known when on the road.
"It's a good thing that they're able to step into the 21st century," said Leverne Thompson, who works in Marion and believes the potential confusion from the new color scheme may even work to the department's advantage. "It sort of makes people behave a little differently, so it's probably a good thing."
Smith says all of the replacement cars will be on the road by October. The department will continue to phase out the original cars as they get older. They will be auctioned off to the public after police decals and other law enforcement equipment are removed.