FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – An investigation showed police officers from more than a dozen South Florida agencies race up and down the Turnpike at speeds well over the limit on a regular basis.
The three month-long probe by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel used Sunpass transponder records from nearly 800 police vehicles to time the average driving speeds of officers from one toll plaza to the next.
The results are seemingly damning of many who hand out tickets to other motorists and are sworn to uphold the law.
Of 793 officers tracked over a three month period, the newspaper found 97% at one time or another clipped along at speeds ranging from 90 to 120 miles per hour.
The Florida Highway Patrol had the largest number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit, which could be explained given that troopers spend most of their time on the freeways, accelerating to catch up with offenders.
However, many of the officers clocked at high rates of speed were out of their jurisdictions and not on duty, according to the newspaper.
The investigation arose from an incident in October when a state trooper pulled over Miami Officer Fausto Lopez, who she said was doing “well over a 120″ miles per hour.
The Sun-Sentinel’s review of Lopez’s transponder records show he exceeded 100 miles per hour 237 times in the year before the stop by the state trooper, an incident that was captured on her dash cam and went viral.
Miami cops, the newspaper found, were by far the worst offenders. Over the 90 day period, the paper documents 143 Miami cops clipping along at speeds over 90 miles per hour.
One Miami cop exceeded 100 miles per hour more than 100 times. All of the Miami officers were out of their jurisdiction.
A much smaller percentage of Broward Sheriffs deputies were nailed by the paper’s investigation, and Sheriff Al Lamberti told CBS4′s Gary Nelson he believes most of them were on legitimate emergency calls.
“Some of our K-9 units have to travel long distances on emergency calls and it would not be unusual for them to respond at emergency speeds on the Turnpike,” Lamberti said.
The Sheriff said all of the findings by the Sun-Sentinel will be investigated, and those who were exceeding the speed limit without good reason will be held to account.
“We are not above the law,” Lamberti said. “We’ve punished people, we’ve taken their cars away. We don’t sweep speeding complaints under the rug.”
Lamberti said that he had members of his command staff set up radar traps to apprehend his own officers exceeding the speed limit on their commutes from out of county.
The Miami Police Department, the Highway Patrol and other agencies caught up in the newspaper’s analysis also have promised internal investigations.
Drivers on the street Monday found news of habitually speeding officers scary.
“I think they’re as dangerous as anybody else,” said Richard Zinn as he waited for a light to change in Doral.
The Sun-Sentinel’s analysis concluded 21 citizens have been killed for maimed by speeding police officers since 2004.