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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Video Shows Trooper Chatting With Boss He Pulled Over For Speeding

Video shows trooper chatting with boss he pulled over for speeding
The Star-Ledger by Chris Megerian - August 25, 2010

A photo of video taken by the officer's dashcam, State Police Staff Sgt. William Walsh chats with his boss, whom he caught doing 10 mph over the speed limit on Aug. 13.

TRENTON, NJ — State Police Staff Sgt. William Walsh called in the motor vehicle stop in much the same way he did so many others in his 22-year career. "Black Chevy, tinted windows, looks like one white male," he told the dispatcher on Aug. 13. The driver had been clocked at 75 mph, 10 miles over the speed limit on the Garden State Parkway in Paramus at about 11:30 a.m. Walsh didn’t realize whom he pulled over until he got to the window. Then he quickly reached into the sport utility vehicle to shake hands with the driver: his boss, State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes. "I didn’t realize it was you," Walsh said. Today, The Star-Ledger reviewed audio and dashboard video recordings from the motor vehicle stop, as well as related documents. Much of the conversation between Walsh and Fuentes, recorded by a standard-issue microphone worn by Walsh, was drowned out by wind and the sound of cars whizzing by on the highway. The two men were clearly friendly. They could be heard trading niceties such as "How have you been?" At one point Fuentes apologized, saying, "Sorry about that." The entire stop lasted two minutes. Walsh did not try to give Fuentes a ticket, and Fuentes did not ask for one during the stop. But State Police spokesman Capt. Gerald Lewis said the superintendent reported the stop to the Office of Professional Standards that afternoon to request a ticket. "He was adamant about wanting to receive the summons," Lewis said. "There was no discussion."


N.J. State Police superintendent is pulled over for speeding on Garden State Parkway
When asked why Fuentes did not request a ticket during the stop, Lewis said the superintendent made the right call. "He was trying to remove the trooper from a difficult decision," he said. "Anyone put in that position would find it difficult to have to consider writing their boss a ticket." Five days later, on Aug. 18, a ranking internal affairs officer issued Fuentes a $160 ticket, which he paid Monday. The ticket also added two points to his license. Fuentes, who was driving a state-issued SUV, was clocked driving 75 mph in a 65 mph zone at milepost 164.1, Lewis said. Just one mile earlier, the speed limit is 55 mph, meaning Fuentes would have faced a four-point ticket costing $200. In addition to his ticket, Fuentes received a written reprimand as a disciplinary action. "As the leader of the New Jersey State Police I am held to a higher standard and obligated to lead by example," Fuentes said in a statement. "My insistence on receiving a motor vehicle summons for speeding was a matter of accepting responsibility." Fuentes last received a ticket in 1976 for driving less than 10 mph over the speed limit, Motor Vehicle Commission spokesman Mike Horan said. Fuentes joined the State Police in 1978 and has been superintendent for seven years. Lewis said Walsh pulled over nine drivers, including Fuentes, on Aug. 13. He issued tickets during two of those stops. Overall, Lewis said, 30 percent of all State Police motor vehicle stops end without any enforcement action, such as an arrest, ticket or warning.

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