Many civil libertarians long objected to the reliance on local policy on money and property seized in drug stops and raids. I have previously written about drivers being stripped of any cash that they cannot clearly account for in highway stops and the windfall such seizures represent for some departments. The federal government has been repeatedly criticized for its seizures, which are shared with local departments. Now this program is at the heart of a controversy in Gwinnett County where Sheriff Butch Conway used money from the federal program to purchase a Hellcat muscle car for use as his official car. However, the story gets much, much worse in my view after Conway’s department cited the other use of the car beyond transported Conway in Knight Rider fashion.
Fox 5 reported that the Justice Department wants Conway to give back $69,258 that he used to buy the 707 hp Dodge Charger Hellcat. The ramped up black Hellcat can hit a top speed of 204 mph . . . and make a middle aged sheriff look incredibly cool.
The problem is that it was supposed to be used as an “undercover/covert operations” vehicle, not as the sheriff’s sweet ride.
The department however said that, in addition to carting around the sheriff, it would also use the car to promote a “Beat the Heat” community outreach program. The department encourages citizens to drag race against police officers on drag strips. This is meant to teach the dangers of street racing and distracted driving.
Really? You actually hold regular drag races to teach the dangers of drag races. I get that this is done on a track but hyping up the fun of racing cops would seem awfully bad idea. Those kids are not likely to venture out to a rented track to continue their love for drag racing.
For now, the county has been cut off from the DOJ’s seized asset reallocation program.
Of course, Conway could always apply for a position with the Dubai police force where the Hellcat would be viewed as a tad staid.