Paper Gets Pulitzer for Investigating Police Speeding

Three-part series gets national recognition, as well as results


Note the lack of thin blue lines.
Valerie Reneé / / CC BY-NC-ND

The annual Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday, which created some unfortunate awkwardness (The Associated Press was still tweeting out the winners as basic news about the Boston Marathon explosions was unfolding).

The New York Times took home a handful in various categories (you can read its coverage of all the winners here). Atypically, one of the winners was a small independent nonprofit environmental news outlet that reported on the dangers of oil pipelines (yes, there are some Keystone XL fears involved, but Inside Climate News did their homework). Less atypically, the winner for editorial cartoons is terrible.

Of note is the win for public service journalism by the south Florida-based Sun Sentinel for exposing rampant and sometimes dangerous speeding by law enforcement officials. In January, Ed Krayewski made note of the harassment of a state trooper who dared pull over an off-duty cop for driving 120 miles per hour on the Florida Turnpike on his way to a second job.

The Sun Sentinel investigated and broke the story open a year ago, showing how this was far from an isolated incident. The paper reported last February:

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.

Sun Sentinel reporters got their hands on toll records from police officers, then determined how fast they were driving based on the time it took to get from one toll booth to the next. Their three-part series also documented the fatalities caused by police speeding (and the lack of consequences) and the permissive police culture that led to the harassment noted earlier.

Sun Sentinel's page for their investigative series is here, and at the bottom there are links to stories documenting changes and police discipline that has resulted from the newspaper's reporting. Congrats to them for leaning on law enforcement like a good public watchdog.

NEXT: Lawsuit Demands Firing of Cop Who Shot Mentally Ill Man

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  1. I wonder what kind of retribution the reporters have faced from this.

    1. They have balls to investigate and run this story,that’s for sure. Good luck to them.

  2. Sun Sentinel +1

    1. I saw a cop run a red light yesterday. He hit the sirens, everyone stopped, he ran it, then he turned off the sirens and continued on his vital patrol in this sleepy California town.

      1. In San Diego police regularly use their lights to make a left turn on a red arrow to pull into a parking lot for lunch. I sometimes see them speeding by at over 100mph without lights on. I have seen many police double parked blocking traffic, parked on the red, or parked in front of a fire hydrant. When people are the law it’s easy to ignore it.

  3. The extent of the problem uncovered by the newspaper shocked South Florida’s police brass.

    What was distressing to them was not the “extent” of the problem. It was the “exposure”.

  4. Can someone kindly tell me what the hell this Pulitzer-winning cartoon is supposed to mean?

    All of those cartoons are terrible, but that one is just baffling. Maybe if there were a Statue of Liberty either crying in disgust or giving the thumbs up with a tear of joy in her eye I would know what the hell is going on.

    1. I think it’s quite obvious.

    2. White people, long the victims of racism in North Carolina are being lifted to safety and freedom by the benevolent hand of Emperor God Obama.

    3. Seriously, those cartoons are effing awful. And not because I don’t agree with the political stance. There’s just nothing remotely humorous or clever or well drawn or redeeming at all about them.

      1. Chip Bok seems hilarious by comparison.

        1. I was about to say that in my post. Bok and Payne: competent comedic geniuses by contrast.

      2. I mean, look at the “cartoon provided by the Pulitzer Board” as evidence of his genius:…..ed/2089347

        WTF!? In what way is that a good cartoon, even granting a great amount of subjective leeway for the word “good”?

      3. They are straight up retarded, yo!

    4. North Carolinians are all evil, gay-bashing fucks and only King Barry I can lead the bruised, well-coiffed, middle-age gay man to the promised sodomite holy land.

      At least until Barry changes his mind and remembers that he opposes gay marriage.

    5. The race for equality (in this case gay marriage) was tripped up by NC Amendment 1, but Obama swooped in and changed the tide by declaring he’d evolved. Clearly.

      This is dumb since NC was the last (I think) in a long line of losses for gay marriage, not some stumbling block on an otherwise smooth road.

      1. and Obama’s conversion came a day or two AFTER the NC referendum.

        1. That was particularly aggravating. I don’t know if he would’ve been able to swing the election, but polling in other states showed a large shift with soft socons in the dem party base after Obama “evolved.”

          1. You must be mistaken. I have it on good authority that there are no Democratic socons, that every single supporter of that party is tolerant of the vast diversity of humankind.

            1. You’re absolutely correct. I’m always forgetting the deeper truth that every Democrat is a rainbow of tolerance and selflessness. I’ll go submit to a reeducation center immediately.

    6. I only know because I remember seeing it around the time of the results. It is in reference to the vote in NC on gay marriage. North Carolinians voted against legalizing gay marriage, then 2 weeks later Obama stated officially that he was pro- gay marriage.

      But yea the cartoonist sucks, and the fact that his cartoons don’t age well is a testament to that.

  5. Here’s the local CBS affiliate’s coverage of the Donna Jane Watts story.

    Watts is the former state trooper who drew her gun on a local officer who was using his “police privilege” to travel 130mph on I-95.

    After Watts treated him like any other citizen–chasing him down, yelling at him for endangering lives, arresting and cuffing him–she was harassed for a year by 88 officers from 25 jurisdiction.

    Because she crossed “the Blue Wall of silence,” she was hounded out of her job and intimidated. Now she’s suing.

    Everyone at Hit & Run and in the Liberty Movement should know and revere the name Donna Jane Watts.

    (The CBS video based on the Sun-Sentinel story is excellent. I was particularly moved by the testimony of the woman who lost her mother to a speeding police officer.)

    1. I saw the video, she was out of her mind angry and that makes me wonder if she wasn’t just a little badge crazy herself.

      1. Lopez was doing 120+mph, weaving through lanes, unwilling to pull over to lights and sirens for seven(7) minutes, and Watts is the one who was “badge crazy?”

        Here’s a story where you can hear the Miami FOP representative explaining why it’s okay to do twice the speed limit and there’s no reason that Watts should have drawn a weapon on another officer.

        Denouement: Lopez, a habitual speeder, finally got fired after a couple of months of paid vacation. He pleaded “no contest” to a misdemeanor reckless driving charge and has no criminal record. He’s still certified to be a police officer in other parts of Florida.

        1. So the officer says it is dangerous to pull a gun on a speeding person who runs from police?

          Someone remind me what the police reaction to that motorcycle helmet cam guy who had a gun pulled on him by an unmarked, unidentified officer? And that guy didnt run from police.

    2. Because she crossed “the Blue Wall of silence,” she was hounded out of her job and intimidated.

      I eagerly await Dunphy to show up and explain to we bigorati how this could possibly be.

      1. If you had reviewed the DOJ statistics, you would understand that incidents of officer’s being hounded out of their jobs is statistically insignificant, and usually justified. I’d post a link to the statistics to bolster my argument, but that’s not my job.


        1. Too many caps and not enough acronym jargon.

          1. Dunphy actually uses caps now. I agree on the acronym jargon.

      2. “I pulled someone over last week doing 111 (mph) in a 60,” Ortiz said. “I didn’t put a gun to their face. Their is no reason for her to pull a firearm and put it in the face of another police officer.”

        I wonder why he didn’t say “in the face of a driver.” But no double standard, no sir.

  6. The proper response to this is to make it a felony to release police driving records of any sort, for safety.

    1. For officer safety.
      ‘Civilians’ don’t matter.

  7. The extent of the problem uncovered by the newspaper shocked South Florida’s police brass. All the agencies started internal investigations…

    Sun Sentinel’s page for their investigative series is here, and at the bottom there are links to stories documenting changes and police discipline that has resulted from the newspaper’s reporting.

    Paid vacations were handed out, new training was given, procedures were updated.

    1. Don’t forget “passive voice was used”!

      1. Use of the passive voice was included in the procedures that were updated.

    2. DARN that due process!

      1. Wait, you’re saying you need to be trained not to drive 100+mph when you’re not on duty?

        Isn’t that tantamount to admitting you’re retarded?

  8. I started to read the article wondering how they got their data, then saw toll records. Elegant in it’s simplicity…or simple in it’s elegancy.

    1. *its

        1. Its a bad cartoon showing it’s member.

          1. No matter what everybody else thinks, neoteny, I think you’re a good guy.

        2. So while John and Sarcasmic fap to the ladies in the Daily Mail, this is the stuff Jesse faps to.

          1. this is the stuff Jesse faps to.

            I can only get a semi these days from telling people they’re wrong on the internet, I’ve been looking for something more hardcore, it’s probably going to be hunting down and skinning trolls alive, but I just hate getting troll innards on my shoes.

        3. Thank you. Reminds me of the time I met a girlfriends… ah, I mean, girlfriend’s brother for the first time who promptly corrected my use of “good” to “well” as a response to ‘how’s it going’. One of those times where you’re so speechless, all the appropriate responses only enter your head well after they would have been useful.

      1. tits

  9. The issue is that speed limits are scorned by some cops primarily because of their legal immunity, not because they are good drivers. The leading cause of death on the job for cops is car accidents (Which they cause by losing control of their vehicle). Experience with high speed driving is important, (you can only get that experience by actually driving fast), but so is having good equipment and not being cocky or overconfident simply because you mistakenly think that your status bestows you with special abilities – it does not. Good drivers are objective about their skills and their equipment. If you’ve had a lot of experience in testing the limits of vehicles, then you understand what this means. It is far safer to drive 100mph in a BMW or any real sports sedan than some boaty, POS Crown Vic. And yet there are cops who amazingly, think nothing of topping that land barge out on the freeway, which is indeed a public hazard. Its a piece of crap, even with the small modifications they make to it, and most cops are over-confident. That’s why some of them get infuriated when they “have to” go fast to catch a speeder (in a car that is actually a safe car at high speed). They know they’ve done something very unsafe. That chick cop probably knows she doesn’t have the experience or the vehicle to drive that fast safely and it made her mad.

    1. I’ve taken a Grand Marquis (the Crown Vic’s brother) through the Blue Ridge Highway – kinda scary feeling those rear wheels wanting to swing around. But overall it wasn’t bad, provided you scrubbed the speed enough as you hit the hard curves. I could certainly take that beast through that road harder than a many econo FWD cars, but still, nothing like a sports car.

    2. The only time I drove 100 mph was in a minivan. I was driving back to Dartmouth from the NH Presidential primaries, and since it was 1AM with nobody else on the road, I sped the van up to 100 just so I could say it’s something I’ve done before.

  10. Good investigation. I know two of my fellow officers who have been disciplined for speeding, but nothing CRAZY like 120 mph. That’s insane. Even responding to a Code 3 detail, on an empty freeway, 120 mph is pushing the envelope.

    Let’s be honest. It’s a perk. If I am off duty and I get pulled over for speeding, I will likely get a warning because I am a cop. I actually drive the speed limit (or close to it) most of the time when off duty, but nobody is perfect.

    Fwiw, many police agencies explicitly (or not so explicitly) encourage/authorize their officers to drive in excess of the speed limit/current flow of traffic speed, so they can move THROUGH traffic and be more likely to witness violators, find rolling stolens, etc.

    Iow, assume a 60 mph freeway, a trooper (in some agencies) would be IN policy by doing 75 so he could move through traffic instead of seeing the same 3 cars for 20 miles. However, there is a big difference between 15 over and the kind of crap we are talking about in this article.

    I take my police car home and I do my best to drive reasonably.

    Imo, 100-130 without a bona fide reason (like a code run to a robbery in progress) is the perfect example of the kind of offense that should lead to a 3 day suspension for a first offense, 2 week suspension for the second, and termination for the 3rd.

    1. A mere peasant would be charged with a crime and likely have their license revoked.

      It must be nice being one of the king’s men.

      1. Plenty ARE charged with a crime. The Bellevue PD cop was charged with reckless for instance.


        1. Only because he wrecked the car which I’m sure he’ll have to pay for… Haaaaa ha ha ha!

          1. your fake omniscience is boring…, “only because he wrecked the car”… which you have no way of knowing. Plenty of cops get charged when they commit such egregious traffic offenses whether or not they wreck the car.I work with a couple cops who have had DUI’s and one who has had a reckless.

            1. Plenty of cops get charged when they commit such egregious traffic offenses whether or not they wreck the car.

              Mm hm. Whatever you say.

              1. Yea. It’s called reality.

                1. My reality is what I see and hear, not what you claim it to be.

    2. Thank you for explaining again the differences between the peons and the king’s men.

      Great work if you can get it.

      1. Yes, there is a difference. That’s the real world. Many cops will give other cops a break for minor traffic infractions. That’s reality.

        1. Yep. Jobs have perks. Cooks get free food, pilots take their families on vacations, and law enforcement doesn’t have to follow that which they enforce. Perks.

          1. Sure, law enforcement has to follow the rules that they enforce. But there is DISCRETION. Officers don’t cite every violator, whether they are an officer or not.

            But yes, it’s a perk. An off duty cop is less likely to get cited for speeding. If that makes you butthurt, I’m sorry.

            In many respects, officer are held to higher standards in regards to the rules, but yea- when it comes to speeding, it’s a perk with MANY officers and agencies.

            That’s reality. I can deal with it.

            1. officer are held to higher standards in regards to the rules


              I read all the time of officers being held to “higher standards” in the local paper. Like when not too long ago some off duty cop hosted an underage drinking party. They had pictures and everything. A month ago there was a two or three sentence story stating that all charges had been dropped and the officer was back to work with back pay. “Higher standards” my ass.

            2. Just out of curiousity, when a cop gets pulled over in a private auto, does he flash the badge to get the “perk” or is it known after the license plate is ran?

        2. In my state 120 MPH is a misdemeanor that can and does lead to jail time for non-LEOs. That isn’t minor.

  11. “The issue is that speed limits are scorned by some cops primarily because of their legal immunity, not because they are good drivers. The leading cause of death on the job for cops is car accidents (Which they cause by losing control of their vehicle).”

    not necesssariy the LEADING (and note vehicular assault is different than a mere car accident – it is stuff like a cop standing outside their car and getting hit by a drunk driver while doing a traffic stop, not related to the COP’s driving usually). Also note that bullet proof vests make a BIG difference. TONS of cops get shot and don’t die that would die except for the vests. The vest do help with accidents, but not nearly as much. It really depends on how you categorize – like would you consider the cop who was intentionally run over when the suspect swerved to hit him as the cop was laying down stop sticks, as dying from a vehicle “accident?”. I wouldn’t.

    as far as the “good drivers”, according the NHTSA study we were presented with at EVOC, cops have slightly less than 50% the collision rate of “civilian” drivers per hour driven. So, by that metric, they are good drivers.

    LOD 2012

    1. 9/11 related illness: 1
      Aircraft accident: 3
      Assault: 1
      Automobile accident: 21
      Duty related illness: 3
      Fall: 2
      Gunfire: 47
      Gunfire (Accidental): 2
      Heart attack: 6
      Heat exhaustion: 1
      Motorcycle accident: 5
      Stabbed: 5
      Struck by vehicle: 6
      Training accident: 1
      Vehicle pursuit: 5
      Vehicular assault: 11

      Read more:…..z2QeWN8rzj

      9/11 related illness: 12
      Accidental: 4
      Aircraft accident: 3
      Animal related: 1
      Automobile accident: 48
      Boating accident: 1
      Bomb: 5
      Drowned: 3
      Duty related illness: 2
      Exposure to toxins: 1
      Fall: 3
      Gunfire: 67
      Gunfire (Accidental): 4
      Heart attack: 12
      Heat exhaustion: 1
      Motorcycle accident: 8
      Struck by vehicle: 9
      Vehicle pursuit: 6
      Vehicular assault: 10
      Weather/Natural disaster: 2

      Read more:…..z2QeXqHCaz

      And again, thank god for bulletproof vests. Three guys in my UNIT were shot several years back doing ONE warrant. All lived, but according to the doctor, 2 of them would have died if not for the vests. Second chance comes out with reports on ‘saves’ regardeing officer involved shootings and some of the shootings are great stuff in regards to the tactics. Some, not so much

  12. Trooper Lopez is a bad ass. The way he moves while drawing and shooting is TEXTBOOK and I would be proud to have a student like this.

    Studying dozens of a shootings a year, I see a fair # who DO use great tactics like this.

  13. Sweeeeet

    around 4:20 on the video

    1. Is that some kind of code? The video above only goes to 2:57

  14. I really don’t care how fast these cops were going. Speeding as a problem is relative to the other traffic on the road. The limit could be 60 but if everyone is going 40, you’re an idiot for going 60. Likewise if everyone is going 70 there shouldn’t be a problem if you’re between 60 and 80. It’s the difference in relative velocity that causes problems with other drivers being able to judge interactions on the road.

    Of course physics comes in to play if you have a problem at 120 other than 60. There’s a lot more kinetic energy that must be dissipated and it’s going to go somewhere. Hopefully, your brakes.

    That being said, I’ve driven almost 10^6 miles in the last 30 years and have regularly gone over 100. At times up to 160 (anecdote, etc.). If I ball it up, it’s my own damn fault but I won’t take anybody out with me. So before I get all riled up about speeding cops (or anybody), I want to know if they were taking a risk with other drivers on the road. If it’s an empty road and their only going to kill themselves, who cares?

    I don’t but I just might be a bastard that way.

    1. Of course there is a problem with police hypocrisy on this issue but that’s not what this expose is about.

    2. Let them take themselves out in their own vehicles.

      Not the one we have to pay to replace.

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