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RHPD’s ‘Wildcat Wagon’

POSTED: June 5, 2017 1:11 p.m.
Ted O'Neil/

Cpl. Jon Zirpolo stands next to the Richmond Hill Police Department's new Richmond Hill High School-themed vehicle. Zirpolo is the RHPD school resource officer.

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By now you’ve probably seen the Richmond Hill Police Department’s new patrol car rolling around town.

It is the primary vehicle for Cpl. Jon Zirpolo, the department’s school resource officer at Richmond Hill High School, hence the car’s Wildcat theme.

The 2007 Dodge Magnum was seized from a local drug dealer in January 2016. Zirpolo said officers “kicked around” a few ideas of how to make use of the car and he suggested the RHHS angle.

“We definitely wanted to do something with it that would grab people’s attention,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that people who saw it knew exactly whose car it had been.”

Under Georgia law, vehicles are one of many items of personal property that can be seized by law enforcement when they make a drug bust. Vehicles, money and other items can then be used by the arresting department.

“We wanted to send a message that Richmond Hill is not the place to deal drugs,” Zirpolo said. “Not only will you end up in jail, but you’ll lose your property and we’ll put it to good use.”

In January of this year, Zirpolo coordinated with Richmond Hill High School Principal Debi McNeal to have students come up with a design for the car.

“We had more than 40 entries,” he said. “Some of them were pretty wild, things like neon pink, so I wasn’t sure what I’d be driving around in.”

Zirpolo said there were several great designs though, and picking the winner was difficult.

“I wish we had some other cars to do the same thing with because there were some great ideas the students had,” he said.

The winning entry came from Daniel Pereira, a rising junior who is enrolled in the school’s graphics design career pathway.

As the photos indicate, the Wildcat logo is used in place of the “o” in the word “police” on each side, and the rear doors feature claw marks. The rear hatch has the RHPD facebook website and says “Wildcats.”

“Everything you see came pretty much right from Daniel’s mind,” Zirpolo said. “He did a great job with it.”

Pereira said his first thought was to have a yellow vehicle with black designs on it, but changed his mind once he got it on paper.

“It looked too much like a taxi,” he said. “But I knew I wanted the elements of the school logo and the claw marks on it right from the beginning.”

Pereira said it took him about three hours to perfect his idea. He hopes to attend SCAD, his mother’s alma mater, after graduation and pursue a career in graphic arts.

“I’ve always liked to draw,” he said. “I’ve been doodling ever since I can remember.”

The vehicle also features the original rims that were on it when police confiscated it.

“That’s one of the main reasons I wanted it,” Zirpolo laughed.

After some body work and an engine rebuild, the originally white car was painted black and the design work was done locally by Pocket Media. It has interior light bars in front and back.

While Zirpolo spends most waking hours during the school year at RHHS, he handles regular patrol duty during the summer.

“I’m out making traffic stops and responding to calls during the summer,” he said. “I’ve had people stop me and want to take pictures already. It’s definitely getting noticed.”

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