Note to speeders: Beware. The Columbia County Sheriff's Office now has two Hemi-powered patrol cars.
The injection of some Detroit muscle into the department's fleet occurred this month with the purchase of two silver Dodge Charger marked patrol cars equipped with 340-horsepower Hemi V8 engines.
The new sedans are a departure from the familiar Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors that make up the vast majority of the sheriff's marked patrol cars.
Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said the Chargers will be on a year-long performance trial to see if they can stand up to the stress of police work, but he said the new vehicles' performance capabilities are enticing.
"The Charger's acceleration, not its speed, is what makes it attractive," Morris said. "It's ability to catch up with a speeder will make for shorter, less daring pursuits, which translates into increased safety for everyone."
According to the official Web site for Dodge Fleet Vehicles, the V8-powered Charger outperformed the Crown Vic V8 and the V6-powered Chevrolet Impala in acceleration, braking and handling tests performed by the Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, two agencies whose reviews are a benchmark in law enforcement.
The Charger cruisers are equipped with an electronic stability program for improved handling and the engine shuts off four of its cylinders while idling, for improved fuel economy.
Morris said the Chargers cost about $3,700 more than the Crown Vics, but the price could decrease if the vehicles are purchased in bulk. Fuel and maintenance costs also will be considered before more Chargers are ordered in the next budget cycle.
Sheriff's Staff Sgt. Tim Perry, who has been patrolling the streets with his new Charger for two weeks, said Ford has a proven track record and that Dodge has something to prove. His overall impression of the car so far, though, has been good.
"It has better handling. It's better riding, more interior room front and back," Perry said. "So far, my impression of it is it's a better car. But time will tell with maintenance and wear and tear."
And the driving public, he said, has taken notice.
"Most people have told me how nice they think the car looks and they're glad we've got (the Chargers) to change things up a little bit."
As of Wednesday, Perry said he had only engaged with one pursuit, a 17-year-old driver traveling 30 miles per hour more than the speed limit. Perry said he quickly pulled the driver over when the motorist attempted to flee.
"I got him for speeding and he told me, 'That's not fair. I wasn't looking for that.'"
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