For most people, the words "speed dating" refer to a matchmaking event where singles sit down with a large number of potential mates in rapid succession. For New Jersey State Trooper Eric Richardson, it reportedly involved threatening female motorists with tickets and arrest until they agree to go out with him.
On multiple occasions, the 32-year-old officer pulled over women for traffic violations, according to an indictment filed Thursday. The lovestruck lawman allegedly threatened the women with jail time and fines unless they handed over their phone numbers. Richardson then reportedly badgered the women over text in an attempt to start "an intimate relationship."
Richardson has now been hit with six charges stemming from these stops, including official misconduct, criminal coercion, and falsifying or tampering with records. If convicted, Richardson could face up to 33 years in prison and $350,000 in fines.
"Police are given great authority and are rightly held to the highest standards of integrity. When officers abuse their authority, as alleged in this case, they must be held accountable," said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal in a statement on the charges.
Richardson's first attempt at roadside romance reportedly came in November 2016, when he allegedly pulled over a woman for having illegally tinted windows and expired registration. According to the indictment, Richardson "attempted to win favor" with the woman "by not towing the vehicle and letting her drive away."
Richardson then allegedly followed her, and—after realizing the nice guy strategy wasn't working—pulled her over a second time, demanding her phone number and refusing to listen to the woman's protestations that she was already in a relationship. The trooper allegedly proceeded to text her multiple times over the coming months and, after receiving no response, pulled the woman over again in January 2017 to ensure that she was in fact getting his messages.
Undeterred by the first unsuccessful courtship, Richardson reportedly pulled over a second motorist in Gloucester Township in December 2016. Getting a little kinky, Richardson allegedly pulled out his handcuffs and threatened to arrest this second woman—who had a suspended license and active arrest warrant out for her—unless she handed over her phone number.
With both women, the indictment says, Richardson filed false reports about the traffic stops, saying alternatively that he was stopping to aid a motorist, and, in the final case, that he had pulled over a male motorist.
The indictment against Richardson does not make clear how or when his behavior was discovered, but the trooper was suspended in May 2017. He remains suspended.
That Richardson is being charged for this creepy and coercive behavior is a good but rare thing. As Reason has covered on a number of occasions, police departments are loath to punish their own officers for misconduct, even for abuses worse than this.