There’s an old Yiddish proverb: Velkh iz gute oyf eyns iz gute oyf nokh,which translated, means “What’s good for one is good for the other.” Earlier this week, a motorist in Miami, Florida decided to put that proverb into practice when a police car zipped past her, doing well over 80 miles an hour in a 40 mile per hour zone. The vehicle had neither its emergency nor its siren activated.
The motorist, one Claudia Castillo, later said, “The cop passed me so fast my car shook side to side…It scared the daylights out of me. I started speeding up and I stopped at 80.” Recording the pursuit with her cell phone, Ms. Castillo kept up a running narration of the issue: “He’s been driving recklessly. He was going about 100 miles an hour ’cause I was hitting 80 and I could not catch up to him.”
Ms. Castillo sounded her horn and flashed her lights in order to get the officer’s attention. Eventually, the officer pulled over, believing the woman following him was in trouble. As Ms. Castillo came up to the vehicle, she demanded, “The reason I pulled you over today…I just want to know, what’s the emergency?”
The officer, who has not been identified, replied, “Um, I don’t know how fast I was going. But I can tell you this, I’m on my way to work right now. I don’t believe I was speeding, but you’re entitled to your opinion. I thought you had some kind of emergency, so is everything fine?”
Ms. Castillo nodded, then proceeded to give the officer a stern lecture on motoring safety. The officer apologized and offered to provide his name and badge number. The woman declined, saying, “No, it’s just I think we all set an example.”
Both parties to the incident remained polite and civil throughout the conversation, which ended with the officer telling Ms. Castillo to “Take care…be safe,” before driving off.
Afterwards, Ms. Castillo defended her action: “I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but nobody’s above the law.”
Claudia Castillo is correct. Even law enforcement officers must be bound by the law they enforce. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Pursuit Policy Workshops for Law Enforcement Officers, unless a “statutory exemption applies,” police are “never exempt from all civil and criminal law governing vehicle operation…even the most serious emergency does not excuse a reckless disregard of the safety of others.” Generally, those statutory exemptions require that emergency lights and siren be activated – which this officer failed to do.
Legally, being late to work is not an excuse for breaking the law. Juan Perez, Police Director for the Miami-Dade P.D. said that the officer’s immediate superior will investigate the incident and that “the appropriate course of action will be taken at that point.”