Policing Their Own? A Rare Sight Indeed.

Now here is a sight we will not likely see very often.  A Florida Highway Patrolman, Trooper Donna Watts, pulled over a fellow officer for driving his squad car 120 MPH in the early morning hours down a Florida highway.  The incident occurred in October 2011 and the trooper’s dash cam video captured the events.

 

(Source: bbc news143)

 

Given that this was criminal speeding, Trooper Watts arrested Miami Police Department Officer Fausto Lopez, who was in full uniform while wantonly disregarding the very traffic laws he was charged with enforcing.  Officer Lopez has since been relieved of his position within the department.

 

This incident is now resurfacing in the media, as following these events Watts claims she was repeatedly harassed by Lopez’s “allies” on the force, including threatening phone calls, unauthorized surveillance, and inappropriately accessing her driver’s license information.  If true, that is certainly no surprise.  No good deed goes unpunished, after all, and police forces are somewhat known for their camaraderie even in the face of questionable behavior.  She is consequently suing 25 law enforcement agencies for $500,000, but right or wrong this development is not the focus here.

What is truly remarkable about this story from my perspective is the fact that she demonstrated the courage and integrity necessary to pull this guy over in the first place.  The attached video conveys this even further, as her anger is quite palpable, as it should be.  It is one thing to wield violent power to enforce the law; it is quite another to do so without any thought or concern to holding one’s self accountable to those same laws.

 

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I can say that on any given day the collectivized group of people I observe breaking common laws most frequently are, unfortunately, law enforcement officers.  Border Patrol (BP) agents in particular seem to be the most egregious in my area.  Nearly every morning as I drive to work a BP agent will blow right by me going at least 15 MPH above the posted limits (usually traveling north, ironically enough).

 

While in the service, most of us took great pride in policing our own.  This concept insists that leaders do so by setting a worthy example and enforcing the same rules amongst our peers as we do with our subordinates.  One could contextually call this equality before the law, even – what a notion.  Though obviously not perfectly comparable to the job or duties of law enforcement, the fundamentals are and should be the same: if one seeks to enforce rules in any context, basic ethics demand that one should be equally accountable to those same rules as well.

 

For doing her part, however small in the greater picture, Trooper Watts deserves much respect.

 

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  1. Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Right |

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