I hear the Rochester Police Department is changing the color of its new squad cars to all black, rather than black and white. Why? Is it to "blend in" with other cars on the street or to look more menacing? There's also been social media reports (so we know how true they can be!) that the PD was ordered to remove the American flag from the squads. What's up with that? -- A watchful driver

Dear driver,

It is always a good thing to keep your eyes peeled while on the roads. Make sure your vehicle is firmly in park before reading my response. Similar to the Portlandia sketch "We Can Pickle That!," let me say this: "there's a statute for that!" Yes, dear reader, Minnesota Statute 169.98 Police, Patrol, or Security Guard Vehicle tells us a number of things including that "municipal police departments, including the University of Minnesota Police Department and park police units, shall be predominantly blue, brown, green, black, or white."

Citing the statute, a Rochester Police Department spokeswoman noted that black is one of the acceptable options.

"Rochester Police Department (PRD) is transitioning to all black squad cars because they are less expensive and tend to hold up better than black and white squads," the spokeswoman wrote to one of the Answer Man's fearless assistants. "Black and white squads require white vinyl wraps around the doors. The vinyl wraps are an added cost and can chip and fray easily."

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The statute also dictates that the identity of the governmental unit operating the vehicle -- in this case, the Rochester Police Department -- shall be displayed on both front door panels and on the rear of the vehicle.

"The identity shall be of a color contrasting with the background color so that the motor vehicle is easily identifiable as belonging to a specific type of law enforcement agency," the statute states.

One of the new Rochester Police Department vehicles Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
One of the new Rochester Police Department vehicles Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

As for the flags, the spokeswoman tells us that a sampling of squads received a black and white flag decal in the updating process.

"The black and white flag decals are being replaced with red, white and blue flag decals, which are in accordance with the United States Flag Code," the spokeswoman wrote.

If you thought Minnesota Statute 169.98 was riveting, you might find a new feeling of joy by reading U.S. Flag code. I've included a hyperlink in the online version of this column to help you follow your bliss.

Send questions for the Answer Man to answerman@postbulletin.com.