By Daniel Katzive
Have you seen an NYPD SUV with green stripes and white stars cruising the streets of the Upper West Side? If so, you saw the newly designed RMP (Radio Motor Patrol) vehicle that the department is gradually rolling out. There’s only one so far on the Upper West Side, assigned to a supervisor at the 20th precinct, an officer there said.
The Ford Police Interceptor SUV has a hybrid gas/electric engine, so you might assume the green stripes herald its enhanced sustainability. According to former Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell at the annual State of the NYPD event in January, the new color is actually a nod to the department’s 104-year-old green, blue, and white flag. The green in the flag itself alludes to the green lanterns carried by the Dutch night watchmen who patrolled New Amsterdam in the 17th Century. Those lanterns are also commemorated by the green lights that mark the entrance to present-day police precincts in New York City.
Longtime New Yorkers (or those who have recently watched The French Connection) may recall that NYPD patrol cars were themselves predominantly green until the early 1970s. Light blue patrol cars arrived in 1973, along with light blue uniform shirts. This appealing, color-TV-friendly scheme lasted from the Kojak era into the days of NYPD Blue, and quickly became iconic.
By 1996, it was time for another change. NYPD uniform shirts reverted to dark blue and RMPs became white with blue lettering. This was intended to reduce the cost of painting the cars, according to a New York Times report at the time. “I think we can save over $1 million,” then Police Commissioner Howard Safir said.
“Even icons are due for an update every now and then,” said former Commissioner Sewell at the January event. In addition to the stripes and stars, the new RMPs have a QR code that the public can scan for access to the NYPD’s website. They also feature 360-degree camera coverage.
The NYPD has not provided details about the timing of the phase in. As noted, the 20th Precinct appears to have just one new RMP, and an officer at the 24th Precinct said that command has not received any yet.