I ran over a story today from earlier this year that raises some disturbing questions about the ability of some police departments to police themselves. Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Donna Jane Watts has sued over harassment that she encountered after pulling over another officer for speeding. A video shows Watts arresting Miami Police department officer Fausto Lopez after she was able to pull him over for speeding at 120 mph. Lopez promptly explained that he was late for an off-duty job. As a result of the arrest, other officers allegedly harassed Watts for stopping a fellow officer in the commission of a crime.
Watts was on patrol when Lopez blew past her. She was not sure who who behind the wheel and took some seven minutes to stop Lopez. Lopez was in uniform when she found him at the wheel. He then effectively admitted to the criminal act by saying he was heading to an off-duty job. According to the lawsuit, many officers believed that Watts should have then protected a fellow officer from being arrested for the crime. Instead, Watts acted like a real police officer who takes her oath seriously. She arrested Lopez.
What followed the October 2011 arrest, according to the lawsuit, was endless harassment and abuse from fellow officers from prank pizza orders to random cellphone calls to police cars sitting in her cul-de-sac. A public record request found that, over a three-month period, at least 88 law enforcement officers from 25 different agencies accessed Watts’ driver’s license information more than 200 times.
She is now suing both the department and individual officers under the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act, a 1994 law that provides for a penalty of $2,500 for each violation if the information was improperly accessed. The lawsuit however is being challenged under constitutional grounds that police officers cannot be liable for merely accessing the information as long as they don not try to sell it.
38 thoughts on “Florida Officer Sues After Other Officers Allegedly Harass Her For Arrested Another Officer Driving 120 MPH On Way To Off-Duty Job”
Here is a similar case from Minnesota.
Is Anne Marie Rasmusson too hot to have a driver’s license? Her photo was the honeypot local law enforcement couldn’t resist
Curious cops? Pervert cops? Curious pervert cops? Read the entire story before deciding.
The numbers were astounding: One hundred and four officers in 18 different agencies from around the state had accessed her driver’s license record 425 times in what could be one of the largest private data breaches by law enforcement in history.
The Department of Public Safety sent letters to all 18 agencies demanding an Internal Affairs investigation of the 104 officers. If the cops are found to be in violation of federal privacy law, they could be fired.
Anne Marie Rasmusson to settle data breach lawsuit with state
Attorneys for Anne Marie Rasmusson say they’ve struck a deal with the state in their client’s data breach lawsuit that would put new safeguards in place to catch abusers of Minnesota’s Driver and Vehicle Services database.
For regular followers of Blotter, Rasmusson’s should be a familiar name by now. Almost a year ago, she filed a federal lawsuit against agencies, individual officers, and governing bodies involved in an audit of the driver’s license database. The audit, which spanned the years 2007 to 2011, found that Rasmusson’s driver’s record had been breached 425 times by 104 officers in 18 different agencies. Her license was accessed another 174 times in 2006, according to state data obtained by City Pages. Rasmusson has already won more than $1 million in settlements from agencies across the state.
Bettykath, looks like both cops were too quick to use force. It’s fascinating to see how this police overreach has come back to bite themselves in the derrière.
I was under the same impression about the violation of privacy….
I am curious as to how late he was to the job. At 120 mph he was really making up time.
The report shows Jackson [the cop] has had 20 citizen complaints since he was hired in 2005 and 12 use of force incidents.
Ramras [IA lt.] has had two citizen complaints since he was hired in 1985 and three use of force incidents.
As of August 6, 2014 Miami police officer demands FDLE investigation after fight with lieutenant
See Article. It’s, shall I say no copy cat story.
In NYS you get 11 points for driving more than 40 mph over the speed limit. You lose your license if you get 11 points in an 18 month period.
You get 5 points for reckless driving. I’d consider 120 mph to be reckless driving.
120 mph is nearly twice the speed limit and at night. The speeder is lucky there wasn’t an unexpected obstacle, like a stopped vehicle, just ahead of his headlights. He wouldn’t have been able to stop. He should thank the officer for possibly saving his life or that of others. Maybe he’ll have enough points on his license to put him on bicycle patrol for awhile. Actually, that might be a good place for him since he can’t be trusted to drive a car safely.
Hope she wins her lawsuit.
Greg, I wonder if the uniformed cop knew who this Internal Affairs Lieutenant was when he stopped him? I wonder, was the uniformed cop under investigation?.
“Police officer in Massachusetts accused of using database access to aid kidnapping”
ACLU of Massachusetts:
“An alleged police officer involved kidnapping in Massachusetts reminds us why we shouldn’t give cops blanket, unchecked access to billions of pieces of information about millions of people.
Behind the scenes, police officers have greater access to detailed information about millions of people than ever before. You need not have committed a crime to get caught up in the data matrix. No evidence of wrongdoing is required before cops can search through tens of federal, state, local, and corporate databases for information about your associations, family members, cars and location history, addresses, work history, biometric data, and much, much more.
Police say they need all of this information at their fingertips, and that we should just trust that they’ll do the right thing. Officers are sworn to protect the public, they say. They don’t need rigorous independent oversight or auditing systems to ensure the databases won’t be abused. Just trust us, they say.
The Boston Globe:
A Dedham police officer was arrested Wednesday for allegedly allowing the mastermind of the kidnapping of an Avon man to use his department-issued equipment, including his badge, to persuade the victim to leave his home, officials said.
The officer allegedly assisted the kidnapping by providing the alleged kidnapper with information about the victim held in government databases, including his photo.
The local district attorney:
“It is alleged that [Officer] Schoener gave his Dedham Police Department issued badge, handcuffs, and empty holster to the mastermind of the kidnapping, James Feeney, and that Schoener also used department equipment to provide Feeney with a photograph and board of probation record of the victim, James Robertson.”
Why should we fear government surveillance if we have nothing to hide? Someone might want to ask James Robertson that. But unfortunately, he’s likely dead.”
I thought there would more input. The guy in civilian clothing is a Police Internal Affairs Lieutenant being thrown to the ground in Miami.
These are the police who investigate cops doing illegal things. Like what happened to this female Florida State Trooper.
Greg, wow just wow, that video with the two cops fighting, amazing. I hope both of those cops learned a lesson of not jumping on someone immediately, but I doubt it.
The defendants in the lawsuit claim that no economic gain resulted and therefore they are not liable. They need to read NLETS policy about violations of privacy rules.
Good point Simms.
“The lawsuit however is being challenged under constitutional grounds that police officers cannot be liable for merely accessing the information as long as they don not try to sell it.”
My understanding of this law is that if I accessed another’s driver’s license information without that person’s permission, I would be in violation of the law just for accessing it. But, the police officers’ attorneys are claiming that a police officer can access another’s information at will, when not investigating a crime, as long as they don’t sell it.
Okaaaaaaaaay. So now, these attorneys are claiming that police officers can invade others privacy simply by virtue of being police officers. Got it.
Here’s the complaint.
The complaint is 69 pages long.
Nah, they were just doing the brother a favor…. Cops can do no wrong…. But for her being a cop the chances of of ever hearing about this are nil to none….
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