Fallout from a Sun Sentinel investigation of speeding cops widened Monday as the Florida Highway Patrol confirmed 31 troopers received oral reprimands for driving at excessive speeds and another 17 troopers are still under internal investigation.
In addition to the reprimands, the 31 troopers also are required to attend a four-hour ethics course, said FHP Capt. Nancy Rasmussen. Some attended the training Monday; the rest are scheduled to take the course Tuesday.
FHP opened the internal inquiries after the Sun Sentinel used toll records to identify 5,100 instances of officers from a dozen South Florida police agencies driving above 90 mph during a 13-month period, often outside their jurisdictions. Many of those officers did not appear to be responding to calls.
Among the officers examined by the Sun Sentinel, FHP troopers drove the fastest, with speeds as high as 130 mph, according to SunPass records. FHP policy requires troopers, tasked with keeping Florida's roadways safe, to obey the speed limit unless they are responding to an emergency call.
FHP made available Monday a list of its law enforcement officers who were disciplined and where and when they sped, but did not detail how fast they were going or whether they were on duty. Of those disciplined, three are corporals and two are sergeants.
"From day to day, they need to be going the speed limit," Rasmussen said. "[The Sun Sentinel stories] brought an awareness back to it because we've had that policy set in stone forever. We expect our troopers to follow policy, and based on the investigation, it showed some of them weren't following policy."
There have been no indications that any of the troopers are fighting the investigations' findings, Rasmussen said. The oral reprimand will stay on each trooper's record for a year, and future infractions could result in a written reprimand, followed by a suspension.
Rasmussen said the 17 cases pending are not necessarily more severe, it's just that FHP has never had so many investigations come in at once before.
FHP is the fourth law enforcement agency to punish officers for speeding as a result of the Sun Sentinel investigation in February:
A Sunrise internal affairs investigation found four officers and three detectives hit excessive speeds at least once without good reason. Discipline ranged from a warning to the six-month loss of a take-home car.
Nine Plantation police officers lost their take-home cars for two days to more than three months.
Seven Margate police officers also lost the use of take-home cars from one day to 37 days.
A number of other law enforcement agencies have internal investigations pending.
The Miami Police Department has yet to announce any discipline for Fausto Lopez, the officer who pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless driving for traveling more than 100 mph to an off-duty job. He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay $3,300 in court costs.
Lopez was the most frequent speeder in the Sun Sentinel investigation, routinely topping 100 mph. He slowed to near-legal speeds only after video of an FHP trooper pulling him over in October made national news.
Miami officers were among the most chronic speeders, with 143 of them driving over 90 mph — all outside city limits, the Sun Sentinel found.
The Davie Police Department has asked four officers, including a major and a captain, to explain why they were speeding as far away as Palm Beach County.
Consequences of police speeding can be serious. Officers exceeding the speed limit in Florida have caused at least 320 crashes and 19 deaths since 2004, the Sun Sentinel found.