A Florida Highway Patrol trooper was recently awarded a settlement in connection to her 2011 arrest of a fellow officer for reckless speeding. Trooper Donna “Jane” Watts pulled over Miami Police Officer Fausto Lopez on October 11, 2011. The off-duty cop was clocked on radar driving his marked police car in excess of 120 MPH in Broward County. Officer Lopez refused to pull over for several minutes, before finally stopping on the wrong side of the road. The incident was caught on the Florida Highway Patrol trooper’s dash cam.
After the arrest, during which Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Watts cuffed and processed Officer Lopez for his excessive speeding, Trooper Watts was systematically harassed by 88 different law enforcement officers who reportedly accessed her personal information over 200 times, according to The Free Thought Project. Despite almost 100 officers being involved in the harassment of Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jane Watts, only two of the cops involved were publicly named in the now-settled civil lawsuit.
According to the report, the 88 police officers involved in accessing Watts’ personal information over 200 times illegally pried into virtually every aspect of the Florida Highway Patrol trooper’s life. The cops involved in the illegal information dig accessed the trooper’s picture, her Social Security number, and her home address and date of birth, among other highly personal information.
Watts’ lawsuit states that the 88 police officers who illegally accessed the Florida Highway Patrol trooper’s personal information were employed by 25 different law enforcement jurisdiction. And their harassment didn’t stop at simply accessing the Florida trooper’s personal information. According to the lawsuit, the officers also made (or issued) threatening phone calls and skulked in front of Watts’ residence in their police vehicles for no reason. The report by The Free Thought Project called the 88 officers’ actions against trooper Watts a “covert psychological war.”
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The Sun Sentinel reported today that they’ve discovered that in Florida, police officers are notorious for speeding offenses, being among the “worst speeding offenders in the state.” According to the newspaper’s investigation, over 700 Florida officers from a dozen jurisdictions have been found driving from 90-130 MPH on Florida roads. What’s worse? Most of these officers were, like officer Lopez, off-duty, many coming to and from work in their take-home patrol cars.
The Sun Sentinel got its information from SunPass toll records. The publication got its hands on a year’s worth and then took to the highway with a GPS device to determine how fast the Florida officers and troopers have been driving (based on how long it took them to get from one toll booth to the next).
Not only do many Florida cops speed excessively and at an alarming rate, they have a penchant for causing deadly accidents, too. Speeding Florida cops have caused 320 crashes and 19 fatalities since 2004. And they are almost never severely punished for their traffic transgressions. Only a single Florida cop has been incarcerated during that time, and even then only for 60 days.
While speeding among Florida cops and troopers is apparently an epidemic, it’s possible that the newly released report may bring about some changes. According to the article, top Florida police brass were shocked by the findings of the investigation, and all agencies involved in the report have begun internal investigations.
Fortunately, the officer pulled over and charged by the Florida Highway Patrol trooper was detained before he could be involved in an accident or injure/kill himself or another Florida citizen.
In the case of Jane Watts, she was mailed a settlement in the amount of $5,000 by the city of Hollywood on February 29. The settlement came as a result of accusations levied against fellow Florida officers Robert Gianino and Keith Wadsworth, who Watts claimed violated her privacy by accessing her driver’s license data without legal cause. Before the Florida Highway Patrol trooper could even file a lawsuit, she also received a $10,000 settlement from Margate City and a $7,500 settlement from Lauderhill as a result of their police officers illegally accessing her private information.
Trooper Watts also has pending cases against officers from Broward Sheriff’s Office; the cities of Miami, Orlando, and Port St. Lucie; and 14 employees of the Florida Highway Patrol. In each of these cases, Watts accuses officers of illegally accessing her personal data in order to perpetuate harassment against her.
None of the officers named in Watts’ lawsuits has faced criminal charges or been forced to personally pay punitive damages for their harassment of a fellow officer. Unfortunately for Florida citizens, all settlements paid to the Florida Highway Patrol trooper will be funded by taxpayers.
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