Marion police officer Duane McCarty has 33 toy police cars on display in a window recess beside his desk near the front door of Marion Police Department.
He keeps them for visitors to look at, especially kids.
“Once in a while kids come in,” McCarty said. “Their mouths just open, and they say something like ‘Look at all the police cars, daddy.’ It makes me feel good to see their reactions.”
However, like many collectors, his collection isn’t for play.
“Maybe I’m a mean guy or something,” he said, “but I’ve just got so much invested in them that I don’t let kids play with them.”
Some cost him $80. Some cost $20. He said he spent between $600 and $700 on his collection, and that’s why he stopped collecting. However, his collection started with dye-cast metal NASCARs. McCarty is a big Dale Earnhardt fan.
“I have boxes full of NASCARs,” he said, “I have hundreds. Every once in a while I would run across police cars on eBay.”
He shifted to collecting police cars about 10 years ago, several years after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, when he bought several New York Police Department cruisers.
“I’m a policeman,” McCarty said. “I guess it was a way to for me to show support for NYPD.”
After that, he began to buy different car models. Some cars were from California and Tennessee, and others were Kansas Highway Patrol cars.
He has toy cars ranging in size from matchbox cars up to 1/24 scale cars as well as historic police paraphernalia like radar guns that are displayed around the office.
“My favorite car is the 1969 Plymouth Fury,” McCarty said. “It was a screamer. It had a huge 440-magnum engine that never seemed to find its top end.”
Some cars, like the 2003 model and 2006 model of the Chevrolet Impala, he collected because he drove the full-size version.
He also has a plastic patrol car from “Robo Cop” that makes noises and a 1-Adam-12 patrol car matchbox model from the TV series “Adam-12,” that he used to play with a child.
McCarty’s interest in police cars harkens back to his youth when his dad was a Florence police officer.
The first police car McCarty ever rode in was his father’s 1962 Ford Falcon. McCarty was 5 years old.
“The Falcon had a big cherry red light on top that was bigger than the car,” he said. “It wasn’t really a police car so I haven’t been able to find a matchbox version of it, but I used to ride around the block with dad in his car. I just thought that was great.”
Another car that stands out is a dye-cast model of a peddle car kids used to ride on that says “Dragnet” on the side.
“‘Just the facts man, nothing but the facts’,” McCarty said. “I used to watch that TV series. I also do the “DRAGNET” for schools, but it’s a totally different thing than the show.”
An acronym that stands for “Decision-making, Responsibility, Awareness, Goals, Needs, Ethic, and Trust,” McCarty has been doing DRAGNET for the last 10 years.
He doesn’t use his collection for DRAGNET presentations, but his collection seems like a natural extension of his desire to reach out to children and adults in the community.
He confirmed that his collection often serves as an icebreaker and catalyst for conversation when people visit the department.
“People always notice my cars,” McCarty said. “It’s kind of a funny thing, but we don’t have to be serious all the time,