Head of State Police Merit Board Gets Muscle Car

Director assigned hot rod

What's the director of the State Police Merit Board doing driving a "gleaming muscle car" with a Hemi V-8 engine "that blasts from zero to 60 in five seconds before topping out at 165 mph?"

That's what the Associated Press wanted to know, and the answer it got was less than satisfying.

The Dodge Charger was seized in a 2007 traffic stop and "assigned" to Ronald Cooley, the head of the board responsible for hiring, firing and disciplining state troopers.

Vehicles seized in traffic stops or the commission of crimes are often auctioned off or used for undercover work. Not so in this case.

State troopers didn't "want a vehicle like that - a flashy, muscle car - in a covert investigative capacity," a spokesman said. "We've learned that those don't stay covert for very long."

The car's blue book value is $24,500, AP reported. The spokesman told the news agency he didn't know why the car wasn't sold.

"Meanwhile, troopers on the road are driving continually deteriorating squad cars," AP reported. "An AP analysis shows on average, the department's pursuit vehicles are six years old and have 115,000 miles, 35,000 more than the agency itself recommends.

"Cooley, 56, took over the $98,220 job in January 2008," the report said. "He said he asked the state police last summer if they had an extra vehicle because the board's 1995 van broke down. Cooley had previously driven a 2001 Chevrolet Blazer, which the agency still uses. He drives the Charger between his office and Petersburg home, for local work assignments and for a handful of out-of-town state business trips."

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter. He drives a 1992 Nissan 240 SX.

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