By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– For the next seven days, citizens have a unique opportunity to tell North Liberty police officers what to do.
The North Liberty Police Department (NLPD) is in the process of updating the emblem that will represent the department, not only on its officers’ uniforms but also on letterhead, identification badges and other items, and they are asking for the public to weigh in on the design.
From now until 5 p.m. on Nov. 27, people can log on to Facebook to vote between two patch designs created by officer Juan Santiago. Santiago based the two designs on initial ideas from department officers and NLPD Chief Diane Venenga.
One officer brought his collection of over 200 patches for ideas and inspiration on shapes, design logos and color options. Santiago used the ideas and his own creative style to put the designs on paper.
“With each submission, he would post for feedback and officers would provide changes or suggestions. This went on for two months, with multiple changes and a huge time commitment from Officer Santiago, who volunteered his time for the process,” said Venenga. The department kept returning to a more modern design that included patriotic symbols.
“Most of us are very patriotic so we definitely wanted some kind of flag within our patch,” Santiago said. “In addition to one of our officer’s own patch collection, I looked at hundreds of other law enforcement patch designs online trying to get ideas on the shape and contents for our own. A suggestion was made that we should incorporate some kind of eagle in our new patch.”
And Santiago said he was for adding the eagle.
“There is nothing more patriotic than the bald eagle– other than maybe apple pie– so I ran with it. I don’t think a slice of pie would have made a for good police patch,” Santiago joked. He found an eagle representation he liked and used Adobe Photoshop® software to modify it.
“I made it look more like it’s alert and ready to respond, which I believe is how our community wants to see us officers,” Santiago said. “I also believe the bald eagle symbolizes our desire to be the best-of-the-best in what we do, and look good– in more ways than just appearances– while we’re doing it.”
Making greater connections to the community was important to Venenga as well.
“Since we are a community-oriented police department I thought asking the public for help in deciding on a patch would be great feedback from our citizens,” Venenga said. “It has generated lots of discussion with the change and the brand that represents NLPD. We value the input citizens can provide and appreciate the help with this decision.”
In addition to being a Marine veteran and a police officer, Santiago has always been considered an artist, he said. When he was younger, he drew and painted a lot, even entering– and often winning– art contests.
“As I got older and busier I couldn’t find time to sit and draw, as most of my work– pointillism, acrylics and other media– always took a lot of time. In the Marine Corps, I made a little extra cash by making personalized cards for Marines, usually for a girlfriend, wife or relative, based on a drawing idea they gave me with a poem I wrote related to what they wanted to communicate.”
Santiago has now incorporated modern technology into his art process, purchasing and learning the Photoshop software as a means to get back to practicing his art and creative design.
Designing the NLPD’s new patch was a perfect opportunity to put Santiago’s old talents and new skills to work. Since the department’s inception in 1999, this will be its third emblem.
“The updated patch has been something discussed for about a year now in the department,” Venenga said. “ We changed the design on the patrol car and wanted to come up with a change for the police patch. The first was the city emblem, the second was changed when we were ordering new patches and added a gray background, and the new patch is something I expect will stick, and continue to grow with the department.”
After Santiago had narrowed his designs, the department voted on them, and the top two finalists were sent out for public vote. With a printing cost of just $1 per patch, and the expense paid from a department fund that comes from providing salvage vehicle inspections, there is no cost to taxpayers, Venenga noted.
Most police departments have emblem designs that are unique to them, but Santiago doesn’t know of many which were created by one of its own, and perhaps not even with officer feedback, let alone public input.
“The chief’s decision to have the community vote on the new patch is a very unique and neat way to include input in deciding how we are going to represent North Liberty police and the citizens of North Liberty,” said Santiago.
Facebook users can find the link to the patch voting site on the city’s website homepage, in an article listed under City News. Others without computer access can stop in the police department at 5 E. Cherry St., call the office line at 319-624-5724 or email Chief Venenga at firstname.lastname@example.org to cast a vote for either patch.
“We look forward to having one of these design on our uniforms,” Venenga said. “So far it has been a great collaborative effort from the officers and the community.”
Venenga said the goal is to get the new patches added to officers’ uniforms before the end of the year.