U.S. DOJ Wants Refund for Dodge Charger Hellcat Bought by Georgia Sheriff’s Department
Not a bad company car, but the party’s over for the Gwinnett County Sheriff.
The sheriff’s department of Gwinnett County in Georgia is in trouble with the DOJ after making a bit of an extravagant purchase. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Sheriff Butch Conway spent almost $70,000 of drug seizure money on a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to use as a company car.
This Hellcat is done up in an especially intimidating black paint job with black rims and tinted windows (ironic, considering cops usually don’t like tinted windows). It cost $69,258 which was paid for by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section’s “equitable sharing program.” In other words, the DOJ gives money seized from criminal activity to state and local agencies like Gwinnett County.
The idea is that this money can be used to buy things that the recipients need. When the DOJ found out about Sheriff Conway’s Hellcat, they didn’t really consider that a necessity and demanded the money back giving the county a deadline of 7/31 despite previously approving of the purchase. Gwinnett County is complying with the refund request.
So, how did the county justify spending public funds on a 707-horsepower muscle car? They said the car would be used in its “Beat the Heat” program which somehow uses drag racing to spread the word that illegal street racing and distracted driving are bad. Imagine how many of those “don’t text and drive” bumper stickers the county could have bought with that Hellcat money.
Gwinnett County is complying with the DOJ’s refund request, but the sheriff’s department stands by the purchase. “Sheriff Conway maintains that this vehicle is an appropriate purchase, especially for an agency with a $92 million budget and the opportunity this vehicle provides in making our roadways safer,” Deputy Shannon Volkodav, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman, said in a written statement.
It was further justified by claiming that Sheriff Conway uses the Hellcat “when he participates in field operations, covert and otherwise, with our deputies.” Because after all, what could be more subtle for a covert operation than a Hellcat? The DOJ isn’t buying it and saying that the car is “extravagant” and “a high-performance vehicle not typically purchased as part of a traditional fleet of law enforcement vehicles.”
If Sheriff Conway could have settled for a more mild Charger like an SRT 392 or an R/T Scat Pack, maybe he could’ve gotten away with it. But a Hellcat is just too hard to justify as police property paid for with what is technically taxpayer money.
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