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Tenn. patrol cars get power boost

By Ryan Harris, Staff Writer
Chattanooga Times Free Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A bank robbery suspect bolted down the interstate at 150 mph but still couldn’t beat the blue lights flashing behind him.

E. Tommy Bonaparte, a Georgia State Patrol trooper in Dalton, Ga., was driving a Dodge Charger, a stocky muscle car with a 5.7-liter V8 Hemi engine. The next patrol car in the pursuit was about 30 seconds behind, he said.

Trooper Bonaparte stayed with the chase for 24 miles before the man suspected of holding up a Bank of America in downtown Dalton crashed his Infiniti sedan at mile marker 309 on Interstate 75.

He said he couldn’t have stayed on the suspect’s bumper if not for the Charger.

“This is a fantastic automobile for its stability,” the 10-year veteran trooper said. “There is no play, there is no swing. Not one time during that chase did this car sway. And the roads were even wet that day.”

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has purchased 10 Chargers for testing, spokesman Mike Browning said, but none are in the 12-county Chattanooga region. Southeast Tennessee patrol cars are Chevrolet Impalas, he said.

Six of the Chargers in Tennessee are driven by administrators, Mr. Browning said.

Georgia State Patrol spokesman Larry Schnall said the state patrol has purchased 121 Chargers since April, and 174 more have been ordered. He said the Georgia State Patrol hopes the Dodge Charger will keep criminals from fleeing.

“The new patrol vehicles are able to overtake vehicles which typically in the past have out-horsepowered us and got away from us,” he said.

Trooper Jason Geddie, of LaFayette, Ga., said the car’s main advantage is its stealth look -- with silver or gray paint, orange lettering and no top light bar.

“No one knows it’s a patrol car until it’s right on you,” Mr. Geddie said. “Some people think it’s cheating, but we feel like people should be abiding the law in the first place.”

Copyright 2008 Chattanooga Publishing Company