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Originally published May 4, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 4, 2007 at 4:46 PM

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Seattle officers' hot cars zero in on hot drivers

It has been only a week and Seattle police Officer John Bundy is getting used to the double takes, photos and stream of compliments. Thursday afternoon, Bundy laughed...

Seattle Times staff reporter

It has been only a week and Seattle police Officer John Bundy is getting used to the double takes, photos and stream of compliments.

Thursday afternoon, Bundy laughed and shook his head as another driver in Southwest Seattle yelled: "Those are the nicest cop cars I've seen." Bundy sped down the street and nabbed yet another speeder.

Bundy is among 11 officers assigned to the department's new aggressive-driving squad. Since the program launched Monday, the squad has given out nearly 200 citations, mostly for speeding.

Though having officers solely dedicated to catching aggressive drivers is new for Seattle police, the buzz around the department is about the six new high-speed Dodge Chargers the officers have been driving.

The department looked at the squad as a chance to try out the souped-up police-designated Charger, Chrysler's reincarnation of the popular "muscle car" from the 1960s and '70s. The car is equipped with a 5.7-liter V8, with a 340-horsepower engine, Assistant Chief Harry Bailey said.

The new cars are faster than the current patrol cars — the Ford Crown Victoria, he said.

"When I first started, it was the old 1975 Dodge and boy was it fast," said traffic Officer Dean Shirey, who has been with the department 31 years. "This is probably the nicest and best-suited car for what we're doing."

Though the cars are a perk for being on the squad, the officers are assigned to clamping down on drivers who are becoming more aggressive as streets grow more congested, Bailey said.

"You start honking the horn, cutting in and out of traffic, and weaving, you'll have a big price to pay," Bailey said.

By June 4, four billboards, some featuring the gray-blue cars and others with Officers Jeff Rogers and J.D. Elliott looking stonily into the camera, will be placed in Interbay, Sodo and West Seattle.

The department spent just under $5,000 on a marketing campaign that includes posters that will be hung in community centers and postcards that will be handed out to teens.

Sgt. Steve Ameden, who is heading the squad, said the creation of an aggressive-driving team has been discussed for years.

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"As we were discussing this last year, we had these really bad accidents," Ameden said, referring to a crash Sept. 21 in Rainier Valley that killed a 26-year-old man and another nine days later in West Seattle that killed four sailors.

"It seemed like we were getting more calls about road rage over dispatch," Ameden said.

Since Monday, the aggressive-driving squad has nabbed speeders on the Aurora Bridge, near the Arboretum and in the Highland Park neighborhood.

The squad also plans to target sections of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, Highway 99, Rainier Avenue South and the West Seattle Bridge.

Chargers already roam state highways — the State Patrol added them to its fleet last year.

But unlike Seattle police, who have decked the cars out with white department decals, troopers' cars are unmarked.

"It's a well-handling, very sleek-looking car that most people don't recognize as a patrol vehicle," Trooper Jeff Merrill said. "They're all the rage now for unmarked patrol cars."

Redmond and Monroe police departments also have Chargers in their fleet. Other local agencies have the cars on order.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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