The Winnipeg Police Service is going retro with new cruiser cars that will be back in black.

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This article was published 5/7/2010 (3957 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A WInnipeg police cruiser in 1979.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

A WInnipeg police cruiser in 1979.

The Winnipeg Police Service is going retro with new cruiser cars that will be back in black.

But getting rid of the long-serving blue and white design for the cars is only part of the rebranding about to be unveiled. The WPS motto "Community Commitment'' will be exchanged for the arguably more inviting "Building Relationships.''

The WPS wasn't able to comment Monday on the coming new looks -- officers are being invited to vote on which of the two designs for the cruiser cars they prefer -- but former deputy police chief Menno Zacharias warned that changing a long-held slogan could have mixed consequences.

One of two designs officers are voting on.

One of two designs officers are voting on.

"Removing the police service motto which forms a key component of the Winnipeg police badge and replacing it with a catch phrase popular with the current administration may be shortsighted," said Zacharias.

He said citizens tend to be more concerned with the quality of police service than the colour printed on the side of the car.

It is not clear yet when the final design will be chosen, but Mike Sutherland, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said new colours could increase visibility and officer safety.

"The new decals would have more of an ability to reflect ambient light, which could enhance the safety of the vehicles," said Sutherland. "Better visibility of the vehicles can lead to better safety."

Can you see the difference?

Can you see the difference?

That's exactly what happened when the Ontario Provincial Police changed back to the classic black-and-white pattern for its cars in 2007.

"We have already seen a decrease in traffic fatalities," said Sgt. Pierre Chamberland, OPP media co-ordinator. "When you are more recognizable, people pay more attention to their driving patterns."

But it was not just the lure of safety that compelled the OPP to switch back to black.

Rather, it was an acknowledgment and pride in its police history.

"The colours go back to our pride in the uniform and our service," Chamberland said. "It is part of our legacy"

This type of rebranding, or nostalgic branding, can have a positive effect on public perception, said Sidney Eve Matrix, a professor of media at Queen's University.

"These kind of changes seem simple but they can make a huge difference," said Matrix. "Black and white conjures up images of the 'good old days' when things were easier."

Matrix said this kind of rebranding is becoming a national and international trend, where old becomes new, new becomes old, and even the police struggle to stand out from the crowd.

"By changing something to nostalgic colours, they are also essentially modernizing it," she said. "It is a way to differentiate themselves and also start new positive associations."

Matrix said the change in slogan can reflect a shift in policing style with officers realizing a stronger focus on social media may be needed to connect with a changing public.

britt.harvey@freepress.mb.ca