NEW PORT RICHEY — It started with NASCAR.
Cpl. Keith Krapfl was watching a race on his living room TV with his son toward the end of last year's racing season. With each pass of the stock cars looping the track, he noticed the logos — these days positioned on the cars' rear quarter panels. The design, he thought, was perfect. Different. Especially on a patrol car.
"Man," he remembers thinking, "what would it look like if that said 'Sheriff'?"
He jumped up from the couch and plopped in front of his computer to open his design program. He spent weeks of his spare time — "more time than I'd like to say" — experimenting with colors, designs and shapes.
Krapfl is an experienced auto artist and deputy. He designed the decal for the Pasco SWAT team's BearCat armored vehicle. He's also on the SWAT team.
In his latest burst of creativity, he drew 15 concept designs. Last year, when Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco decided the agency was due for new patrol cars, the Ford Taurus, he mined his deputies for ideas.
He thought they should have a say in the design because "They're the ones driving the cars."
Within a few months, Nocco had a folder full of designs. Some were colored with pencil. Some were copies of other agencies' designs. Krapfl turned in official-looking designer renderings, fresh off his printer.
Nocco said he would stop people working in the Sheriff's Office and ask them which design they liked most. One stood out almost unanimously, he said.
In green letters streaming off the rear quarter panel are the words "Pasco Sheriff." The sheriff's gold star appears to shoot toward the front.
The older model cars are striped with black, green and gold lines that end in a star on the front door. Below that, "SHERIFF" appears in black across the middle of the car.
Nocco said he chose the Taurus to replace the aging fleet of Chevy Impalas the agency currently uses. As newer cars are phased in, the older ones will go to other employees in the agency.
Decal jobs on the new cars, paid for by the Penny for Pasco, cost $189 per car and were done at Crockett's Auto Body & Repair. Of the 56 that will replace part of the fleet, 13 are on the road now.
Because his design was chosen, Krapfl got the first one.
He said people have been receptive to the new design. Some beep and flash a thumb's up while he's driving. A photo of the new car appeared on the Sheriff's Office's Facebook page, where most commenters praised it.
"Drove past one on Ridge near 19," wrote Zack Ayotte of New Port Richey. "Pretty classy."
"AWESOME!!" wrote Philip Collier of Tarpon Springs.
"Looks like a kids car," wrote Hector Aviles.
Other officers have ribbed Krapfl about the new design, too. "Just cop stuff," he said.
About the design: "It's different," he said. "I don't think you're going to find another Sheriff's Office with a design like that."
Alex Orlando can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.