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Idaho State Police sporting new low-profile cruisers

By Sonja Lee
The Idaho Falls Post Register

IDAHO The sleek look is a bid to make cops a little less obvious on the road.

After years of being on the lookout for the black-and-white cars with big light bars, aggressive drivers will have to adjust their sights if they want to avoid a ticket.

There’s a new Idaho State Police cruiser in our midst.

With its streamlined body and little or no light bars, the new Dodge Charger patrol cars don’t fit the traditional police mode. Troopers are counting on that low profile to catch aggressive drivers - those who speed, follow too closely or weave in and out of traffic.

Except for their mandatory black-and-white markings, most of the new Chargers blend in with traffic. That “stealthiness” should help bust lawbreakers, Trooper Vance Cox said.

“People will come up behind us and slam on their brakes because they aren’t used to seeing the new cars,” he said.

The price tag is about $32,000 fully stocked, said Sgt. John Burke, the sergeant in charge of the ISP fleet. The ISP bought 33 Chargers this year and plans to order 24 more in 2008.

“It’s the best tool we have for the job,” ISP Capt. Danny Bunderson said.

Cox has been driving his slick-top Charger (one without a light bar) for three weeks.

He’s pulled over dozens of speeders, almost all of whom express surprise when the Charger swoops in behind them and calls for them to pull over.

The Charger can reach 100 mph in 16.2 seconds, seven seconds faster than its predecessor, the Ford Crown Victoria.

“I would never do this in my Crown Vic,” Cox said as he U-turned in the median on U.S. Highway 20 to chase down a speeder.

He had the offending motorist pulled over and stopped in a fraction of the time it would have taken him to do the same thing in his old car.

Another benefit of the Charger? The technology is the newest available.

Take the LED lights, for example. The digital light system uses less electricity than the old vector light bars.

“We used to go through a lot of alternators (because old light bars need a lot of electricity),” Bunderson said. Now, that should not be a problem.

All things considered, he said, the cars have worked well.

“We’re not Charger people, per se, although they do make a good ride,” Bunderson said.

Copyright 2007 The Idaho Falls Post Register