A Miami woman named Claudia Castillo said she was driving 35 mph when a Miami-Dade police officer sped past her at more than 80 mph on a four-lane street leading to an expressway Friday afternoon.
Castillo then started recording and followed him onto the Palmetto Expressway, attempted to catch up with him, admitting on video that she reached speeds of 80 mph just to try and keep up with the officer, who by then, was reaching speeds of 100 mph, she said.
She eventually caught up to him – all the way across the county near downtown Miami – and flagged him down, waving for him to walk back to her car.
She explained her concern, even admitting that she reached 80 mph, but the cop took it in stride, said he disagreed with her, but that she was entitled to her opinion.
He even offered his name and badge number, but she declined to take it.
He said he was on his way to work but stopped because he thought she had an emergency.
“Everything is fine, it’s your speeding,” she said.
“I apologize and I’ll be sure to slow down, ma’am,” he said.
But Castillo got off lucky. At least for now.
In October 2011, a Florida State Trooper named Donna Watts pulled a Miami police officer driving 120 mph on I-95. Watts then stepped out of her car with her gun drawn, ordering Miami police officer Fausto Gomez step out, where she had him handcuffed, thinking he may have stolen the car.
Like the latest incident, Watts had chased him for several miles before he finally told her he was on his way to work.
But she ended up becoming the victim of retaliation where police officers from all over the state accessed her private information through police databases – that are only supposed to be used for official police work – and they began making crank calls and delivering pizzas to her home.
It also led to an investigation against Watts from her own department and a feud between the two agencies where one Miami cop pulled over another FHP trooper, only to get in trouble when that trooper’s brother was an internal affairs officer for the Miami Police Department.
But that isn’t the end of the story. The Florida Highway Patrol then investigated Watts for her handling of the incident. The agency cleared her of any wrongdoing, but it took two months. It’s hard to believe a cop who arrested a regular citizen for driving 120 mph, and who then initially refused to pull over, would be subjected to a similar investigation.
But then the real retaliation began. On police Internet discussion boards, Miami police officers posted open threats against Watts. One Miami cop apparently tried to pull over an Florida Highway Patrol officer in retaliation, until that particular move backfired. Another FHP officer found his car smeared in human feces.
For Watts, the harassment has been quite a bit worse. She has received hundreds of calls to her private phone, some pranks, some threatening. She has had pizzas randomly delivered to her home. Strange cars began parking outside her home. And her career as a police officer may well be over. The Miami New Times reported in 2012 that her “superiors don’t think she’ll ever be able to return to duty on the road, and if she ever got into a situation where she needed backup she does not think she would receive it.”
Watts has now filed a lawsuit. As part of that suit she filed an open records request with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. As the Associated Press reports, that request found that “over a three-month period, at least 88 law enforcement officers from 25 different agencies accessed Watts’ driver’s license information more than 200 times.”
So the two police agencies decided to bury the hatchet at a softball game on Saturday.
The Miami Police Department, dressed in blue, trounced the Florida Highway Patrol, dressed in brown, by a score of 17-3 in a nine-inning game that was filled with blunders, laughs and even a few spectacular plays.
When it was over, both sides shook hands and hugged each other with the comfortable knowledge that they would be able to break the speed limit without fear of getting pulled over.
So in that regard, both sides emerged as winners.
So yes, the speeding continued. That’s just a way of life down here for cops and citizens alike. Most of us turn a blind eye towards the cops speeding, content that they are not pulling us over for speeding.
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.
Watts, meanwhile, began striking back at the retaliators, filing lawsuits against agencies whose officers obtained her private information through police databases for the sole purpose to harass her. Most settled but the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office decided to fight it.
But as we see in Castillo’s videos and as most of us living down here can attest to, the speeding continues. That’s just the way of life down here.
After all, even Castillo admitted to speeding in order to catch up to the cop.