Deploying Dragnet-era design and modern-day thinking, police are cruising city streets in traditional "black and whites."

Abandoned decades ago in favor of the more contemporary all-white design, the old-fashioned paint scheme for police cars staged a comeback two weeks ago in West Valley - earning rave reviews from the public." `Dragnet,' Andy and Mayberry - some of it was comical, but at the same time it was a friendly one-on-one relationship," officer Mark Welton said. "Back in the old days, the cop was right in there with the public. You were their friend."

As one of four officers working full-time under the department's Community-Oriented Policing (COP) program, Welton now drives a "black and white." "We're talking the color of the paint on a car," Welton said. "I've really been surprised by the public's response."

School kids, especially, are noticing the change, according to Melissa Gleave, a crossing guard at 4100 S. Acord Way (4225 West).

"They really stand out," she said of the newly painted patrol cars. "They look traditional and I like to see them getting back to it."

That attention is exactly what police were hoping for when they rescued the design from mothballs - making the patrol cars an anomaly in Utah.

"When the `black and whites' were in, the officers were in the neighborhoods," said Welton, who transferred to the COP program after working as a West Valley patrolman and before that as a policeman for nine years in Phoenix. "Back in the old days with the `black and whites' . . . the officer had the time to chat with the kids, get the cat out of the tree."

More than just a change in color, the shiny repainted cars accomplish two things, according to Welton. They're easily recognizable in a crisis and also trigger memories of an era when citizens willingly gave police their respect without question.

For West Valley, still battling occasional resistance to the years-old decision to form its own police department, those feelings of warmth are welcome.

"To change a reputation, it takes a long time and a lot of effort," Welton said. "(COP) is a big step in getting the police department back in tune with the community. It was an edge we needed for a long time."