The first time Winder Police Lt. Chris Cooper drove his department’s freshly-painted pink patrol car, he quickly realized the typical relationship between cops and civilians had been reversed — civilians were stopping him more than he was stopping civilians. Cooper couldn’t even go two blocks without people holding him up multiple times.
“I had three people want to stop and take a picture with it, I had people giving me the thumbs up, I had people stop me and tell me they really appreciated what we were doing,” Cooper said.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Winder Police Department reskinned one of its oldest patrol vehicles to a light shade of pink. The squad car, which also sports a pink ribbon on its front bumper, will function as a normal patrol vehicle throughout October — cruising streets while outfitted with its lights, sirens and radios.
As November rolls around, Cooper said the fate of the car is undetermined, though it will likely be held onto for promotional events such as parades and festivals or it could be used in partnership with local groups aiding the effort to fight cancer.
As for who is chosen to operate the pink car, Cooper said the department isn’t assigning it to any officer not comfortable with getting behind its wheel. Even Cooper admitted to feeling “skeptical” and “worried” about the looks or comments he might get when he first drove the pink cruiser. But with the amount of support the car has received, Cooper said some officers are all for using the vehicle as their work ride.
“We’ve got officers who are almost fighting to get to drive it,” Cooper said.
The idea to paint the car pink first came up in casual conversation. There had been talks of retiring one of the fleet’s oldest cars, a 2008 Chevrolet Impala, until Police Chief Jim Fullington got wind of the idea and approved it. That’s when Brad Akins, owner of Akins Ford in Winder, agreed to paint the Impala at no cost to the police department.
“It’s a great thing to be involved in,” Akins said. “We appreciate the effort they’re putting in to promote a great cause.”
The department unveiled the new vehicle in the beginning of September at Winder’s Jug Tavern festival.
The car has received much positive feedback, Cooper said, but has also faced its fair share of retaliation with many people questioning why the department chose to support breast cancer awareness instead of other causes.
“The truth is, there’s just so many causes out there that we could be a part of,” Cooper said. “And we’re not opposed to any of them, this is just the one we sort of chose to start with.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists breast cancer as the most common cancer in women, excluding some skin cancers, and among the leading causes of death for women in the United States.