Civil Liberties

Illinois Police Official Gets Cherry New Ride


In January 2007, state police in Illinois seized a shiny new, souped-up Dodge Charger after arresting the car's owner on drunk driving charges. The state apparently passed a law in 2006 that allows police to take and keep the cars of repeat drunk driving offenders.

But this car didn't get auctioned off, as often happens in seizure cases. Instead, it was given to Ronald Cooley, head of the State Police Merit Board. The Merit Board oversees state police hirings, firings, discipline, and promotions.

According to the A.P., Cooley "drives the Charger between his office and Petersburg home, for local work assignments and for a handful of out-of-town state business trips." The A.P. says other police officials may be driving seized luxury vehicles, too.

The transfer also raises questions about how the department uses nearly two dozen other vehicles the police have seized, including a 2003 Cadillac Escalade, a 2004 Audi Quattro and a 2005 GMC Sierra. The agency refused to tell the AP who drives those vehicles, citing the possibility that it would jeopardize officer safety.

Compton said there's nothing improper about handing over the sports car to the director of an agency that administers state troopers' hiring, firing and discipline. Cooley agreed.

"It's not a situation where I'd do anything for them or they for me," Cooley said. "It helped our budget and they had something they couldn't use."