NORFOLK — The nation knows them as the crowned lip sync champions, but residents here also know them as ice cream truck drivers and law enforcement officers who line dance at community events.
Now, they’re also taxi drivers — or half taxi, half police car drivers — with their new “police taxi.” It’s a new tool the department uses to remind people that it costs only about $15 to hail a ride home — but it’ll cost them about $8,100 when they choose to drink and drive.
“The front half of the Chevrolet Impala is painted like a standard police car, but the back half is painted like a Coastal Ride taxi with the word ‘Safe Ride’ on the side,” police said in a recent news release.
The police taxi won’t be used as an operational police vehicle but is making its rounds and staging at events and DUI checkpoints throughout the city like a rolling billboard “to start a discussion and make people think before they act,” officials said.
The police taxi is just one of the most recent efforts the department has made toward building a relationship and gaining trust within the community — an initiative Police Chief Larry Boone said is a top priority.
“It’s important that the community knows their police department exists to serve them,” Boone said. “That’s not done by an officer simply smiling and waving as they pass by — you have to personally invest your time in the community.”
Residents can frequently socialize with officers during their “Coffee with a Cop” events at local coffee shops.
When gun violence prevention took center stage last summer, Boone and other officers organized a community “Guns Down” movement events in four neighborhoods — a first of its kind in the city and across the region.
Local music artists, End Timez, even turned the movement’s message into a ‘guns down’ anthem.
To top off the summer, the department unveiled its custom-painted “Ice Cream Patrol” truck when they drove through neighborhoods handing out popsicles during what they called a “COPsicle Tour.”
And, with the votes from supporters all over Hampton Roads, Norfolk police officers appeared on TV screens across the nation where they accepted the top prize of $100,000 for their lip sync rendition of Mark Ronson’s and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”
Boone said “building authentic relationships within the communities” will remain a priority and the agency will continue to exemplify and lead the way in community outreach in the region.
“Fighting crime will always be our core responsibility to the city, however, when the community knows and trusts their officers, you’re not fighting alone,” he said.
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