Lawmaker complains about getting out of speeding ticket; trooper fired
Posted in the Minneapolis Forum
#1 Mar 30, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- A state trooper who said he was cutting a break to a speeding legislator has been fired because he decided instead to falsely cite the lawmaker for not having proof of car insurance.
Trooper Charles Swindle, a six-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol, is appealing his March 15 firing and says the state highway patrol has an unwritten policy of not issuing tickets to lawmakers who set the patrols budget, a charge the agency hotly denies but which raises new questions about whether politicians get favored treatment on Floridas highways.
Swindle said he was trying to be nice last Nov. 19 when he spared Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, a $250 ticket for speeding on Interstate 10 in Madison as the lawmaker and his wife headed to Tallahassee in a Toyota with a special tag that identified him as a legislator.
Using a radar gun, Swindle clocked McBurney going 87 in a 70 mph zone. He let the lawmaker go with a warning, fining him $10 for lacking proof of insurance, without asking for the proof that was in McBurneys wallet.
Im cutting you a break on this one, Swindle told the lawmaker, according to an internal report. Before doing so, the report said, Swindle checked with his superior, Sgt. Gary Dawson, who approved and said:We aint gettin no pay raises anyways.
The report quotes Swindle as telling the sergeant:Im going to write [McBurney] a warning and be nice; Im going to stroke him cause I didnt see his insurance card. Ill give him that ticket, warning for speed.
Dawson is on leave and has told superiors he plans to retire.
McBurney, a former prosecutor, insisted he was not driving 87 mph because he set his cruise control to 75 mph, and he did not appreciate the troopers special treatment. He complained to Col. David Brierton, chief of the highway patrol, who ordered the investigation that led to Swindles dismissal.
I am concerned that as Trooper Swindle acted in such fashion to me, that he would do so to any law-abiding citizen of our state, McBurney wrote.
Swindles termination letter said he engaged in conduct unbecoming a public employee, and he falsely accused motorists of offenses they did not commit.
You displayed poor judgment and circumvented the legal process, the letter said.
#2 Mar 30, 2013
For decades, troopers have been encouraged to act with discretion, and the patrol has a history of showing deference to legislators, dating back decades when troopers would serve as chauffeurs for lawmakers.
But Swindles attorney, Sidney Matthew, says its deeply rooted in the agencys culture. The lawyer alleged the patrol has an unwritten quid pro quo policy of not ticketing politicians, and that young recruits are taught in a state-run academy:Dont bite the hand that feeds you. Around half of the states 160 lawmakers opt for legislator license plates, the state says.
This stinks, Matthew said.The FHP cant have it both ways, with a policy of discretion to cut breaks to legislators who are speeding and then turn around and fire them.
Horse hockey, said Julie Jones, executive director of the patrols parent agency, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.There is no policy that says that we give anybody a free pass because theyre an elected official.
Former Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, said troopers ticketed him several times during his eight years in the House.
If there was any preferential treatment, I certainly did not receive it, Planas said in an email.In fact, I dont think that FHP liked the Legislature very much because the guy took pleasure in giving me a ticket.
At the Herald/Times request, the state confirmed a list of legislators who have been ticketed by troopers in the past two years, mostly for speeding.
The list includes Reps. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello; Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland; Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka (twice); Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville (twice); Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee; and Clovis Watson, D-Miami.
Then theres the case of new state Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary.
On the same day Swindle stopped McBurney last November, he also pulled over Clelland, who he also clocked going 87 in a 70 mph zone on Interstate 10 in Madison.
Swindle let Clelland off with two citations, for no proof of insurance and no car registration, after noticing a firefighter sticker on Clellands windshield.
Swindle said he was cutting Clelland a break,from one firefighter to another.
I didnt ask him to give me any break, Clelland said.I remember him saying,Youre the second legislator Ive pulled over today.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/27/3310004...
#3 Mar 30, 2013
If anything the lawmaker should have been sent to jail, btw all speed laws are unconstitutional drive as fast as you want..... I do over 120 mph daily M-F on the interstate
#4 Mar 30, 2013
Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville...
#5 Mar 30, 2013
He deserves to die for being anti-constitution
#7 Mar 30, 2013
Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville...
More teabagger trouble...
#8 Apr 1, 2013
This azz hole is one of the reasons why I changed my party affiliation here in Florida from Republican to "no party affiliation".
Great job azz hole
#9 Apr 1, 2013
A retired COP once told me if a COP ever tells you they never gave a drunk a ride home they are telling a fib.
#10 Apr 1, 2013
A retired cop once told me, don't use a moniker, you cannot use proper English rules AND spell ???
#11 Apr 2, 2013
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