My immediate reaction to seeing the car was laughter, because, holy hell, just look at this majestic Freedom Wagon:
You’re telling me that it took a graphic design company “many hours over several weeks” to come up with that design? Because, not to put too fine a point on it, but “waving American flag down the side of the car” seems like an idea that would have taken a fifth grader all of 30 seconds to come up with and sketch out if you asked them to draw a patriotic police car.
Anyway, the Sheriff’s Office’s mention of two different companies doing work on this got me to wondering how much the taxpayers forked over for this rolling flag-code violation. So I fired off a FOIA request to Cleburne County Sheriff Chris Brown and asked.
On Monday, Sheriff Brown responded and sent me the invoice from Visual Identity for $2,182.60 (including tax).
Sheriff Brown also noted that they were waiting on additional invoices for the “upfit” on the car, which he would send when he received them. Earlier today, he passed those three additional invoices along as well.
The first was for $2,982.36 for a variety of things, including a $40.11 “external cup holder” and a $135 “adjustable arm rest,” both of which I assume are very patriotic in their own ways.
The second of the three additional invoices was for $2,124.30. It included $865 for a “Pathfinder Siren Remote,” which will allow them to make their donated Valor light bar do all sorts of things that would make Darryl Worley alarmingly erect.
The final invoice was for $429.33, which I hoped would be for something like “cage for live bald eagle,” but was just for some window guards and a rapid charger.
All told, Cleburne County spent $7,718.59 to turn a regular 2020 law-enforcement edition Dodge Charger into something that will get a “hell yeah!” at parades from the kind of people who get misty-eyed thinking about Donald Trump dryhumping a flag on stage.
Will $7,700 break the bank? Of course not. But that’s not remotely the point.
The issue is that the Sheriff’s Office is so overfunded and flush with cash that they can drop nearly $8,000 on something this pointless without worrying about a shortfall in funds somewhere else. I’m not even talking about this through a “defund police” lens, though I certainly think this kind of spending is part of that conversation. I’m just saying, how many people in Cleburne County–or anywhere in Arkansas–do you think could afford to spend $7,700 just to gussy up their car for the occasional parade or event?
Beyond its garish look and price tag, however, the car is a problem on a broader level, because it perpetuates the idea that “patriotism” and “supporting law enforcement” are in any way intertwined. It’s the same mindset that leads to those stupid thin-blue-line flags. Contrary to what this car would suggest, law enforcement does not have some sort of monopoly on patriotism, and a person can absolutely love his or her country while (a) thinking this car looks ridiculous and (b) believing that law enforcement in America needs a drastic overhaul and is not infallible.
The Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office is clearly proud of this car. I just wish that had they the collective awareness to understand why they shouldn’t be.