Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Law Enforcement Officers Need To Be Smart --- Always!

On December 31, 2011, two uniformed deputies from the Putnam County Sheriff's Department (Florida), in separate marked units, were racing to the scene of a call. It must have been a very serious call because both of these deputies were hauling ass.

Both of the S.O. units were equipped with an Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL). Most individuals would regard these sophisticated devices as an important officer safety tool. If an officer, or a deputy, were in trouble these devices might just help to save their lives. Others, like the two deputies involved in this incident, would probably disagree. To them, the AVLs were probably viewed as an impartial witness to their transgressions.

You see, according to the AVLs one deputy was traveling at a speed of 124 miles per hour. The other deputy's speed was a little less, just 119 miles per hour. What was the posted speed limit in the area where these two deputies were traveling? It was reportedly just forty-five (45) miles per hour.

The departmental investigation of this incident indicated that b
oth officers were traveling eastbound on State Road 20. Initially, Deputy "A" (the 119 m.p.h. deputy) was in the inside lane. Deputy "B" was behind Deputy "A" and near the intersection of State Road 20 and Twin Lake Grove Drive he moved his vehicle into the outside lane. Apparently, his intention was to pass his fellow deputy, but instead Deputy "B" lost control of his marked unit. After his vehicle spun out of control and crossed a concrete median, it came to rest in the westbound lanes of State Road 20.

The investigation revealed that when Deputy "B" lost control of his vehicle his AVL indicated that he was traveling at a speed of 124 miles per hour. The police vehicle reportedly sustained approximately one thousand dollars in damage to the vehicle's suspension and under carriage. Hell, considering the extreme speed that was involved, it seems to be a damn miracle that Deputy "B" wasn't killed, or seriously injured. And, thank God, his runaway and out of control vehicle did not kill or maim some innocent civilian either.

Putnam County Sheriff Hardy reportedly eventually stated, "We are very fortunate that no one was killed or severely injured as a result of these officers' reckless behavior and lack of judgment. Although accidents are often unavoidable, had these officers been operating their patrol cars at reasonable speeds, this traffic crash could have been prevented."

I imagine that at most police departments traveling at such a high and dangerous rate of speed, to a routine call for service, is a very serious violation of agency policy. After the administration investigation was concluded both deputies were dismissed from the Putnam County S.O. Deputy "A" had been employed with the S.O. for six (6) years. Deputy "B" had been with the S.O. for about one (1) year.

But, wait a second. What was the call these two deputies were racing to? Was it a life-threatening situation? A felony in-progress? Maybe these two deputies were risking their own lives, and the lives of the citizens around them, for a higher purpose.

Reportedly, the call for service they were responding to involved a complaint of noise from golf carts in the area of Hunter Road, in Hollister, Florida. Noisy golf carts? You've got to be kidding me! A law enforcement officer would risk their life, and the lives of innocent civilians, reference a noise complaint involving golf carts? How utterly absurd is that?

Today, with all the modern technology that is available, we in the law enforcement profession have to be more alert and careful than ever before. Unless we want our actions, or inaction, to be recorded and shown to a sometimes unforgiving world, we need to double our efforts to act as profession as possible. We need to be smart --- always!

I'm sorry, but driving over 100 miles per hour to a "routine" call for service, such as a noise complaint, is NOT being smart.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, these two deputies deserved to be fired.

Gary P. Jones, Captain [retired]
Fort Lauderdale Police Department

author of book: Badge 149 - "Shots Fired!"


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