Swiftness does not equal intelligence.
This is borne out nightly in suburban Cook County as sheriff’s police wait for speeders in a souped-up Mustang or Firebird. Lead-footed motorists check out the undercover sports cars at roadside, spot an officer at the wheel–and accelerate.
Seems they want to drag race.
Some mistakenly think the police are off duty in private cars. One “pulled up and wanted to race him. . . . He didn’t think the officer could chase him because he was in uniform,” Sheriff Michael Sheahan said Sunday at a press conference to show off the latest weapons being used in the war against speeders and scofflaws.
The drag racing comes to an abrupt end when the officers turn on the sports cars’ flashing lights and pull over motorists. Officer Gary Slomski said he hears the same complaint about 20 times a night: “I didn’t know you were a cop.”
Their Detroit muscle cars weave a powerful spell. While Officer Craig Wilk writes citations, speeders sometimes ask: “Do you mind if I look at your car while you’re writing the ticket?”
A pilot program that put cameras inside 13 cars–including the sports cars–has been such a success that it will be expanded to 31 more squad cars, thanks to a $1.1 million federal grant, Sheahan announced. About 200 other patrol vehicles still will need the equipment, Sheahan said.
The $4,400 cameras, installed inside police vehicles to record traffic stops and moving violations, have won over reluctant officers, Sheahan said. “It prevents a lot of accusations,” he said.
“I was a good police officer before I even had the video camera in there,” officer Larry Harrison said. “With the video camera in there it makes you a better police officer because you know you’re being videotaped.”
Harrison said his DUI conviction rate went from about 85 percent to 99 percent because of tapes showing motorists unable to walk a straight line.
Sheahan played footage from squad car cameras to demonstrate that they have helped secure convictions. In one, a Corvette hit a speed of 142 mph as it tore in and out of traffic. The driver had his license suspended for five years and paid a $5,000 fine.
“Most of the offenders plead guilty once they see these tapes,” he said.
Dramatic footage showed Harrison trying to catch a suspect after the suspect jumped back into his car and started driving off. Harrison was dragged briefly as he reached into the stolen car and shifted the gear into park to arrest and disarm the armed parolee inside.