01/07/2012

FHP clears trooper in traffic stop of Miami cop

An internal review cleared FHP Trooper Jane Watts, who stopped a speeding Miami officer

By PoliceOne Staff

MIAMI, Fla. — Trooper Jane Watts did not violate policy when she pulled over and handcuffed a Miami officer in October, an internal review by the Florida Highway Patrol concluded.

A report released Wednesday stated Watts used discretion during the traffic stop of Officer Fausto Lopez, in which she stopped Lopez for driving at speeds of up to 120 mph, drawing her gun in the process and launching lengthy media scrutiny and a back-and-forth feud between the departments.

Watts, though cleared, did disobey an order from supervisor Sgt. Reynaldo Sanchez and did not "back off" when instructed, according to the Sun Sentinel. According to Watts, she thought Sanchez was asking her to slow down, so she did, and turned off her emergency lights — but Lopez accelerated, she said, so she stopped him.

After pulling over Lopez, a trooper and a corporal stopped to help Watts, the report said, but when they arrived on the scene and saw Lopez, they believed a supervisor was needed.

The two assisting officers called Sanchez, who spoke to Watts on the phone and told her to remove the handcuffs, they said in the report.

When Sanchez later arrived at the scene, he told Watts to write an incident report, not knowing until he viewed dash cam of the stop that Watts had drawn her gun — a detail she left out when she spoke to him.

The report made no recommendations and said Watts acted within the realm of "judgment and discretion afforrded to her as a Florida state trooper."

"She believed he was intentionally not stopping for her," the report said. "The driver was driving recklessly. She thought that possibly the police vehicle could have been stolen."

Not everyone is satisfied with the report's lack of disciplinary action. After vice president of Miami's police union Sgt. Javier Ortiz read the report, he said there remain "continued hard feelings over the trooper's treatment of Lopez."

"It is clear that Trooper Watts lacks two of the most important values in police work: integrity and responsibility," Ortiz wrote in a lengthy email obtained by the Palm Beach Post.

Asked if she would have done anything differently, Watts said no.

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