The old Ford Crown Victoria isn’t the only police car on the road anymore.
A car show and parade Wednesday night showcasing D.A.R.E. police vehicles from across the state proved they come in all shapes and sizes — from minivans to SUVs and trucks.
Officer Robin Short’s 1998 red Pontiac Firebird Trans Am boasts a chest-thumping speaker system and spinning rims.
“It’s an attention-getter,” said Short, who has been a full-time D.A.R.E. officer at the Bowling Green Police Department for two years.
Her vehicle was seized from a man charged with drug trafficking. A court order granted the police department ownership of the car.
A few volunteers donated their time to put D.A.R.E. stickers on it, and now the vehicle previously used by a criminal sends a positive message, Short said.
“I use it as kind of a teaching lesson,” she said.
When children misbehave their toys may be taken away. When adults misbehave their car could be taken, she tells them.
The parade, which began at Roeder Harley-Davidson on Milan Road, was part of the annual Ohio D.A.R.E. retrainer conference. The event runs through Friday at Kalahari Resort Convention Center and includes daily workshops on street smart education, dealing with bullying, computer crimes and more.
Officer Don Andrukat, an 18-year veteran of the Berea Police Department, has gone to the retrainer conference 13 of those years.
“It kind of rejuvenates you — getting geared up for the next school year,” he said, standing beside his 1987 Nissan 300x with a custom red, white and blue paint job chosen by his students.
His was one of about 50 cars that took part in the parade through downtown Sandusky and the Ohio Veteran’s Home. This is the first year the retrainer has been hosted by the Perkins police department, said Sgt. Dan McLaughlin.
“It’s an honor for us to be able to have this here,” he said. “(We thought) it would be nice to group them all together and give the public and the community a chance to view them.”
As a part of this year’s conference, attended by about 100 D.A.R.E. officers, police participated in local service projects, said Officer Glen Adamson of the North Olmsted police department.
“D.A.R.E. is considered a family, and we’re very proud of that,” he said.
Before the parade children from the Boys & Girls Club of Sandusky volunteered to wash the cars by hand. Every officer with a vehicle entered in the show received a plaque and T-shirt, courtesy of local donors, McLaughlin said.
Van Wert police Officer Gregory Blackmore and his wife, Shari, came to the conference with their two children. They rode in a Dodge Magnum, complete with detailing — courtesy drug money seizures.
“It’s fun for the whole family,” Shari said. “It’s something the kids look forward to every year.”
A police force veteran of 21 years, Officer Bob Swope of the Olmsted Falls Police Department said he enjoys being in schools and working with children most.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I should have done this way early in my career. It’s like you’re a hero to them.”
D.A.R.E., which stands for drug abuse resistance education, started in 1983 in Los Angeles.