9/30/2005Reckless NJ Police Convoy Escapes VA Justice
New Jersey police are outraged at being stopped for driving recklessly through Virginia, even though they were not ticketed.
New Jersey police officers are furious that a Virginia sheriff's deputy asked them to obey the traffic law in Virginia. On September 18, a speeding convoy of Passaic County, New Jersey police officers barreled through Interstate 81 in Virginia with their emergency lights blazing -- but there was no emergency. The officers were just in a hurry to get home after service in the gulf region.
Clocked at 95 MPH in the 65 MPH zone, the convoy of about a dozen vehicles was asked to pull over by Augusta County, Virginia Sheriff's Deputy Michael Roane. Six of the New Jersey police sped away without stopping.
"We're not above the law," Roane said in an interview with WHSV-TV. "We have to obey the speed limits. We cannot run emergency equipment when there's no emergency."
In what was described as an initially hostile stop, Roane politely asked the New Jersey officers to turn off their lights and slow down. The Passaic officers claimed that returning from helping with Hurricane Katrina rescue duties gave them the right to speed.
"We just had guys down there for the last 14 days... helping our brothers in blue," Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale said in a recorded telephone call to Roane after the incident. "You know what? You need to get off of that highway, pal, and wake up and learn what law enforcement is all about -- supporting each other."
"It's a disgrace," Speziale said of Roane's conduct. "If you think that that's not a disgrace, you should take the badge off your shirt and throw it in the garbage."
It is unlikely that ordinary motorists returning from equally hazardous volunteer rescue efforts would receive the same courtesy. Under Virginia law, it is illegal to operate emergency lights when there is no emergency. Moreover, driving 80 MPH on any highway is considered reckless driving and carries a sentence of 12 months in jail, a $2500 fine, a six-month license suspension and possible car confiscation (VA code § 46.2-862).
A convoy of New York Police Department officers returning from duties in the Gulf Coast stayed in the right-hand lane and obeyed the speed limit.
Transcript of a September 18 telephone conversation between Passaic County, New Jersey Sheriff Jerry Speziale and Augusta County, Virginia Deputy Mike Roane:Source: Battle Between Sheriff's Departments (WHSV-TV, 9/30/2005)
Roane: Hi. Is this the sheriff?
Speziale: Yes, it is.
Roane: This is Deputy Roane from the Augusta County Sheriff's Office. How are you doing?
Speziale: Hey, deputy, how are you?
Roane: I'm doing pretty good. I'm calling in reference to the incident that happened today with the [Virginia] State Police.
Roane: I just wanted to let you know there may have been some confusion. I don't know if you're aware, the [Virginia State Police] trooper you talked to was not the officer that stopped them. I was the actual deputy that stopped ?
Speziale: Here's what I'd like to know. You're a sheriff's officer?
Roane: Yes, sir.
Speziale: OK, is the sheriff familiar with this? The sheriff, himself, as I am?
Roane: No, sir.
Speziale: He's not?
Roane: He hasn't been made aware.
Speziale: You know what? Why don't you have the sheriff call me, because, it's Augusta County?
Roane: Yes, sir. Augusta ?
Speziale: Here's my problem - we got guys coming back from New Orleans so that we can get another deployment down, and I get a call from some trooper calling the Wayne Police Department threatening to arrest our people. You know what? It's a disgrace and I don't know who your sheriff is, but I plan to find out who he is and speak to him. It's a disgrace. If you think that that's not a disgrace you should take the badge off your shirt and throw it in the garbage. That's what I got to tell you. OK?
Roane: Well ?
Speziale: You don't want to talk to me. Listen, pal, you don't want to talk to me. You don't want to explain no circumstances to me. We just had guys down there for the last 14 days [unintelligible] helping our brothers in blue. You know what? You need to get off of that highway, pal, and wake up and learn what law enforcement is all about - supporting each other. OK?
Roane: Well, would you like to hear our side of it?
Speziale: I don't really want to hear your side of the story. I don't care what your side of the story is. I already got my side from my guys and all I can tell you is, I'll deal with your sheriff if he wants to call me and I'll deal with the state police colonel, who I'm going to see in Miami next week [for the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention].
This is unacceptable, and I'll tell you what, I hope I get the opportunity to show you the same courtesy up here in New Jersey.
And I'm going to tell your sheriff at the National Sheriffs' Association, and I'm going to tell the National Sheriffs' Association because there's no room for people like you in law enforcement, OK? So, you don't want my opinion, OK? Now, go back out [unintelligible] and look for speeders.
Roane: Thank you.
Speziale: Have a good day, my friend.
Roane: Thank you.
Speziale: Have your sheriff call me. I don't talk to deputies.
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