Friday, October 4, 2013
Civilian drivers across the country say they are up in arms over what they see as a double standard: cops ignoring the speed limit, at times with lethal results.
Playing the part of highway video avenger, they've caught officers in the act with helmet cams and cameras rigged to their vehicles -- and then posted the videos to YouTube.
"I realized the more videos that I have, then folks will realize that it is a common problem," said Ron Carr of Raleigh, N.C., who's documented speeding cops in Raleigh for months.
The officers are not responding to an emergency with lights and sirens on.
Justin Hopson, a former New Jersey state trooper and author of "Breaking the Blue Wall," said police officers were speeding to get to lunch or meet other officers.
"It's pretty prevalent," he said. "I don't think cops think of it as a hypocrisy. It's more of a mentality of 'Hey, I have a badge and the ability to go fast as I need to go."
And it's a problem that police departments seem reluctant to acknowledge.
"I don't think cops think of it as a hypocrisy. It's more of a mentality of 'Hey, I have a badge and the ability to go fast as I need to go."
In June 2009, a Milford, Conn., police cruiser going 94 mph in a 40 mph zone rammed into a passenger car.
Ashlie Krakowski and David Servin, 19-year-old sweethearts from Orange, Conn., were killed in the crash. Krakowski was a high school star with dreams of becoming a nurse; Servin, a talented musician planning to go to business school.
"I was disgusted that it was a police officer," said Servin's mother, Susan. "You see them racing around all the time. And, you know, this time they didn't get away with it."
The officer involved was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, though he's currently free as he appeals.
The Krakowski and Servin families sued the police to uncover the scale of the problem, demanding to see dashcam video from the previous two years.
"We wanted to know: Was there a culture of speeding?" Susan Servin said. "Was this an isolated incident that you could forgive a little more easily?"
The families received 500 dashcam clips, including footage of an officer on a call racing at 113 mph in a 45 mph zone. He was suspended.
But then the Milford Police Department said that it had accidentally deleted 2,000 other clips.
Hopson said it was almost unheard of for cops to call each other out over speeding.
"If you do so, you're deemed a stool pigeon," he said. "You're deemed the round peg in the square hole and there's ramifications for doing that."
Florida State Trooper Donna Watts said she received threatening phone calls and spotted strange police vehicles in front of her home after she pulled over a Miami-Dade police officer flying up Interstate 95 at speeds up to 120 mph.
That officer was later fired by his department and is now trying to get his job back.
Watts is suing, claiming the harassment prompted her to leave road patrol and even her home.
"Miss Watts feels betrayed," said attorney Mirta Desir. "For some members of the law enforcement community to turn against her has torn her apart."
Florida's Sun Sentinel newspaper discovered that, in a single three-month period, almost 800 cops had been clocked driving 90 to 130 mph.
Many were not on duty.
In Connecticut, the Servin and Krakowski families remain skeptical that the police will ever crack down on speeding by their own.
Lois Krakowski, Ashlie's mother, said the police had destroyed their families.
"They did," she said. "And it could be anybody's kid, anybody's kid. And it's the worst thing that could ever happen to you."