- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

Five police officers plan to become targets for a good cause.The five men, from the Prince William County, Fairfax County and Manassas police departments, literally will compete with former or look-alike police cars bumper to bumper in a demolition derby for bragging rights on who is the best driver in the Washington area.

They will compete Aug. 15 at the Prince William County Fair Grounds in the first Police Chase Challenge. The money they earn from donations through sponsorships and winnings will go to the Special Olympics.

Prince William County Sgt. Ben Fravel, 50, commander of the department's motorcycle unit, thought up the idea to enter a police car in the derby as a fund-raiser for Special Olympics. That was three years ago, while he was working at the Prince William County Fair. Last year, Prince William County Officer Steve Collins entered the race with a marked police car and competed with civilians.

Sgt. Fravel says he came up with the name after Metropolitan Police Department Officer Dave Moseley chased down and disabled the car of another competitor during the demolition derby.

"It came out of last year's demolition derby when Dave had his D.C. car and was chasing the guy all over the place," Sgt. Fravel says. "The crowd went wild."

The chase also raised $20,000 for the Special Olympics in the District and Virginia.

"It goes for financing the sport games and training our Special Olympics athletes," says Sgt. Fravel, a board member of the Special Olympics in Virginia. "The reason law enforcement officers have embraced Special Olympics is that 85 percent of the money goes directly to programs for the athletes. Most of the money goes directly to the training and participation and sending them to the games."

Officer Moseley was planning to compete this year, but because of legal concerns, the D.C. police department won't allow him to do so as a police officer. Nevertheless, Officer Moseley says he will find his own car and compete without soliciting any donations for the Special Olympics. He says the department prohibits officers from soliciting donations while on duty. He says he will promote the Special Olympics by painting its name on the side of his car.

Sgt. Fravel says that he and Officer Moseley have talked about getting other departments involved. They hope eventually to turn it into an event with only police officers competing in one race during the fair.

However, they have been able to field just five officers, so about half of the participants in the race will be civilians who will face the officers.

"We have some folks from Maryland who said, 'It sounds like a great idea,' but I haven't heard back from them," says Officer Moseley, who believes others may enter at the last minute.

Sgt. Fravel, who could not compete in 2001 because of an injury, says he hopes to be in the race this year. Also competing are Fairfax County officers Joe Furman and John Harris, Manassas Police Department Detective Mark Cash and Officer Collins.

Officer Furman says this will be not only the first demolition derby in which he has competed, but also the first one he has ever seen.

"I've never been to a demolition derby," he says. "I thought it would be a neat opportunity to raise some money."

Officer Moseley entered a cruiser in the race in 2001 that was used to patrol District streets. Although it had thousands of tough miles on it, the car was still running after two races, although the rear body of the car had been shoved over the rear axle.

The only thing that disabled the car was that the gear shift lever broke off during the first race and prevented Officer Moseley from backing the car off an earthen berm, and he was eliminated. He was able to bypass the shifter and bring the car back for the featured race.

Officer Moseley says he is already planning to bypass the shifter on the steering column on the car before this year's race.

"It won't have a gear shifter in it. I'll be going through the floorboard straight through to the transmission. I'll just have to reach down to set up the car," Officer Moseley says. "The linkage in the shifter is the weak link in all cars."

Before the race, all of the glass and lights are removed and the doors are disabled, preventing them from opening when hit by another car.

Sgt. Fravel and Officer Collins will be using two retired Ford Crown Victorias that were used on patrol in Prince William County. He says they have been using the cars to get sponsors and in parades to promote the derby and the Special Olympics.

Fairfax County did not have any cars destined for the junk heap this year, so Officer Furman and Officer Harris are using two donated cars that will be painted and decaled as Fairfax County Police Department vehicles.

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