This is the blog for Robert Vincent, Chief of Police for the Gulfport (Florida) Police Department. Please feel free to leave comments, but keep in mind that anything appearing on this page may be subject to retention and disclosure in accordance with Florida public records law.

Please keep your posts clean and respectful. Comments are subject to review, and I do not permit lewdness, obscenity, or personal attacks.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cops Are Not Above the Law

A recently-published series in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel highlighted several examples of police officers driving at excessive speeds for apparently no legitimate purpose. Their measurements were based on time-over-distance calculations from toll-transponders assigned to take-home police vehicles. In many of the incidents, it appeared the officers were simply commuting to and from work. Speeds were frequently 20-30 miles per hour above the posted limits.

I applaud the police chiefs who have vowed to investigate and discipline officers found to have broken the rules. The fact is that we in law enforcement bear the responsibility of earning the trust and respect of the public; we can't do that by breaking the very rules we expect the public to abide by. Traffic rules are no exception.

To help ensure we are doing our part in Gulfport, we have some policies and procedures in place. These practices hold the police officers accountable to an even higher degree than the general public, which is--in my opinion--exactly how it should be.

1. It is the policy of the Gulfport Police Department to issue a uniform traffic citation to any officer found to be at fault in a traffic crash that meets the reporting requirements under Florida law. This is actually not a common practice among law enforcement agencies. Many defer to administrative discipline, but my position is that every other driver who is at fault in a crash will face some form of consequence other than the traffic ticket; why should cops be any different?

2. Police vehicles and operators are not exempt from our red light photo enforcement program. An officer caught running a light must either pay the violation (and face discipline) or document the circumstances that made the action lawful and justified.

3. All patrol and most other police vehicles are tracked by GPS when moving. Police commanders run periodic reports to check speeds of vehicles to determine if there are issues. Any speeds above the established enforcement thresholds (the same ones applied to the public) can result in disciplinary proceedings unless the officer can document the circumstances that made the action lawful and justified.

If you see one of my police vehicles breaking traffic laws, I want to know about it. Call 893-1030 right away and ask to speak to the supervisor on duty. If you're not satisfied with the results, contact me personally.