Monday, August 13, 2007

Alsip mayor crashes new police car

August 12, 2007
By Kim Ja nssen, special to The Star

The temptation to get behind the wheel of a new 340-horsepower, Hemi-equipped Dodge Charger police car was irresistible for Alsip Mayor Pat Kitching.

But less than 20 minutes after he grabbed the keys and took the muscle car for a spin, it probably didn't seem like such a good idea.

Less than a half-mile from village hall and police headquarters, Kitching, 58, collided with a 1996 Ford Windstar minivan at 121st Place and Cicero Avenue.

The damage to the squad car: $9,000.

The damage to Kitching's ego: Harder to calculate.

Kitching -- who owns four vehicles, including a 1966 Ford Mustang -- declined to comment Wednesday as details of the July 18 crash emerged.

Police Chief Bob Troy said the driver of the minivan -- a 16-year-old girl of Chicago -- was to blame for the accident.

"She made an illegal left turn, and there was nothing the mayor could do," Troy said. "She was cited, and her insurance will cover the repairs. The whole front end (of the Charger) was pretty badly beat up -- the fenders, the bumper, the hood, everything."

Neither Kitching nor his passenger, Officer Don Helwig, nor the two passengers in the teen's Ford were injured, Troy said.

But the accident was an inauspicious introduction for the Charger cop car in Alsip.

The village is the first in the Southland to have the high-powered Hemi V8 version, which races to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds (two seconds faster than the commonly used Ford Crown Victoria) and is capable of hitting 146 mph.

Alsip went for Hemi-equipped police cars instead of those with standard V6 engines because the resale value will be better, Troy said, adding, "it's a positive thing for the village for people to see these squads."

Kitching's test drive was taken in the first of five of the $22,092 cars delivered to the village.

It was on the village lot for less than five minutes when he took it out. Though painted black-and-white, the car had yet to be fitted with police lights, markings or even a license plate when the accident happened.

"The mayor's pretty embarrassed, but he didn't do anything wrong," Troy said. "It was just one of those things."

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