How Journalists Busted Speeding Cops

The Sun-Sentinel in Ft Lauderdale found nearly 800 police officers from a dozen agencies driving at 90 mph to 130 mph on the region’s toll roads. Many times, they weren’t on duty — just commuting to and from work. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting wanted to know how they did the story:

Veteran investigative reporter Sally Kestin and data maven John Maines came up with an ingenious method for finding these speeding cops. They obtained data from data in SunPass transponders in patrol cars and — by tediously driving up and down the area’s highways — checked it against distances between toll plazas.

They found 793 transponders with evidence of speeding.  On average, one out of five of the patrol cars exceeded 90 mph. Over a 13-month period, they found 5,100 high-speed incidents.

They discovered that 21 people have been killed or maimed by speeding cops since 2004 — and interviewed grieving relatives and accident survivors.

They found that speeding cops often escaped serious punishment in the criminal justice system. “Cops found at fault for fatal wrecks caused by speeding have faced consequences ranging from no criminal charges to a maximum of 60 days in jail,” the paper reported.

A culture of loyalty often protects cops who speed. “At least 320 law enforcement officers across Florida were involved in crashes from 2004 through 2010 that were blamed on the officers’ speeding. But only 37 — 12 percent  – were ticketed,” the paper said. “By contrast, 55 percent of other motorists who were speeding when they crashed received a citation.”

The project includes a great web component with video:

The website also includes a clickable map so you can see where cops speed the most:

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