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Sweet, free rides: County sheriff’s office wins Harley, Gainesville police Dodge Magnum

POSTED: November 13, 2007 5:05 a.m.

Sometimes it helps to be lucky and good.

Such was the case for the Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office, which in a pure coincidence won big prizes from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Governor’s Challenge in a drawing for top-of-the-line police vehicles.

Sheriff Steve Cronic’s key brought the agency home a new Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle. Police Chief Frank Hooper one-upped his counterpart by winning his department a new Dodge Magnum. They were the only two vehicles awarded in a contest of chance in which 90 state law enforcement agencies were eligible.

On Thursday, his 50th birthday, Hooper took receipt of the title and the souped-up station wagon at a conference of more than 20 area law enforcement agencies at the Georgia Mountains Center.

"You’ve gotta be good to be lucky," Hooper joked.

Both agencies are participants in the Governor’s Challenge, which requires applicants to submit traffic enforcement safety statistics and demonstrate how they promote safe driving. That includes statewide campaigns like "Operation Zero Tolerance" and "Click It Or Ticket."

"If they get into the Governor’s Challenge, that means they’ve really jumped through some hoops," said Jim Shuler, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

The motorcycle, worth around $23,000, was donated by Clayton County Harley-Davidson, with about $8,000 in law enforcement add-ons from other sponsors. It will join a sheriff’s fleet of six Harley-Davidson Electra Glides already on the road.

"When the sheriff put the key in and the blue lights came on, it was really exciting," Maj. Jeff Strickland said.

The police-pursuit Dodge Magnum from Hayes Chrysler has a sticker price of about $36,000, but is worth more than $60,000 once all the extra features are added, including a Panasonic Toughbook computer, a DVD recorder and Lo-Jack stolen car tracker.

"There’s nothing else you can put in it," Hooper said.

The chief is handing the keys over to his top drunken driving enforcer, Officer Dallas Bright, who in 2006 made the most DUI arrests in North Georgia, Hooper said.

"It’s going to be different," said Bright, who’s used to driving a standard-issue Ford Crown Victoria. "It’s nice and dark, so it will probably be a little less noticeable."

With a Hemi engine, cold air induction and a Borla exhaust system, it has a little more pursuit power than the average patrol car, too.

Neither agency is wasting any time putting the new rides to work.

"By tomorrow night, this car will be on the road," Hooper said.



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