MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami police officer who made headlines after he was pulled over on the Florida Turnpike by a Florida Highway Patrol officer for speeding should be fired. That’s the conclusion of an internal investigation into the matter.
The probe found that officer Fausto Lopez showed a “practice and pattern” of reckless speeding. Lopez routinely clocked speeds of more than 100 miles per hour while off duty between September and November 2011, according to the report.
Lopez was clocked by state trooper Donna Jane Watts doing 120 mph on October 11, 2011.
When he finally pulled over, she arrested the uniformed officer at gunpoint, although reports came out later that a supervisor had told her to “back off” and not pull Lopez over. Lopez later said he was on his way to an off-duty assignment.
Watts told state investigators that she continued to follow his squad car because she feared the vehicle was stolen since she believed no officer would drive so fast and so dangerously.
Video of the 7-minute pursuit made national news and ignited a firestorm between his department and the Florida Highway Patrol.
Lopez pled no contest to a reckless driving charge; a misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail.
The report was blasted by the Miami Fraternal Order of Police. In a written statement, they dismissed Sunpass data used to track police speeding.
“SunPass is effective in order to collect money to maintain our roadways. SunPass transponders are not recognized by the State of Florida as a speed measurement device,” said the statement by Sergeant Javier Ortiz, Vice President of the Miami FOP. “Unlike SunPass, laser and radar equipment utilized by police are checked everyday that it is used, the speed is visually estimated by a Police Officer in order to compare it to the speed measurement device, and the violation is also observed by a human being. In Officer Fausto’s case, there is no video, no photos, no eyewitness accounts, no calibration or certifiable documents.”
Ortiz said he had no problem with officers caught in official and measured “speed traps” set up by internal affairs unit, but thinks it’s wrong to oust Lopez with the unofficial data.
“The termination of Fausto Lopez is clearly a media stunt to appease those that are unaware of how speed enforcement is properly done,” Ortize said.
“Internal Affairs is recommending that, because of his history of speeding and his history of recklessness, that he be terminated. The message is clear,” Moss said. “If you’re in a Miami police car you’ve got to drive like you’re supposed to.”
FOP union President Armando Aguilar said other officers caught up in the speeding investigation were given much less severe punishment, ranging from letters of reprimand to brief suspensions.
“The discipline is way too excessive,” Aguilar said of Lopez’s proposed firing.
“Because of his notoriety with the media and his public appearances, they’re unfairly making an example of him,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar says Lopez has been punished enough already.
“He paid over $3,000 in fines, he had to work 100 hours of community service, he lost his take home car for three months and he was suspended for a month.”
In downtown Miami the lead-footed cop received little sympathy from one driver.
“I feel that anybody who has to uphold the law, has to obey the law. So, I don’t see what the problem is,” said motorist Eric Neff.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.