What is it about Florida that their government officials don’t feel the need to obey the speed limit?
A three-month Sun Sentinel investigation found almost 800 cops from a dozen agencies driving 90 to 130 mph on our highways.
Many weren’t even on duty — they were commuting to and from work in their take-home patrol cars.
The extent of the problem uncovered by the newspaper shocked South Florida’s police brass. All the agencies started internal investigations.
“Excessive speed,” Margate Police Chief Jerry Blough warned his officers, is a “blatant violation of public trust.”
The evidence came from police SunPass toll records. The Sun Sentinel obtained a year’s worth, hit the highways with a GPS device and figured out how fast the cops were driving based on the distance and time it took to go from one toll plaza to the next.
Speeding cops can kill. Since 2004, Florida officers exceeding the speed limit have caused at least 320 crashes and 19 deaths. Only one officer went to jail — for 60 days.
A cop with a history of on-the-job wrecks smashed into South Florida college student Erskin Bell Jr. as he waited at a red light in Central Florida three years ago, hitting him at 104 mph. Bell is now severely brain-damaged.
“Every day, you pray for a miracle,” said his father, Erskin Bell Sr. “Had this officer’s behavior been dealt with, maybe he would not have run into our son.”
Law enforcement officers have been notoriously reluctant to stop their own for speeding, and the criminal justice system has proven no tougher at punishing lead-foot cops, records show.
That sense of impunity infuriates many Floridians. Those concerns erupted in October, when a state trooper clocked Miami Police Officer Fausto Lopez driving 120 mph through Broward County on his way to a moonlighting job.
“They think that they have carte blanche. Who’s going to catch them? Who’s going to do anything about it?” said state Sen. Steve Oelrich, a Gainesville Republican and former sheriff.
“Something needs to be done.”