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Police Abuse of Power & Authority

by Donnie Wayne Sawser (xfhas [at]
Off-duty Vallejo cop avoids arrest after leading Sacramento authorities on a high-speed car chase
In the early Nineties, we all witnessed the power of video when adrenaline-crazed-club-wielding cops beat Rodney King into the next century. This is the typical aftermath of most car chases and it’s known as “curbside justice.” Like the off-duty Vallejo cop in the below listed articles who evaded Sacramento authorities, Rodney King evaded police in a vehicle. The only difference between Rodney King and the off-duty cop was that one went to the hospital while the other was sent on his merry way with a friendly handshake.

Sure, cops have the discretion to issue warnings in traffic related matters as long as the offense isn't too serious. Verbal warnings are a natural part of a cop's daily patrol routine, but how many times have you heard of cops issuing a warning to someone who just finished leading them on a 100 mile per hour chase?

The reason the off-duty Vallejo cop was treated with kid gloves following the chase was based on “professional courtesy,” you know, that brotherhood nonsense in cop subculture where they take care of their own, the "us versus them mentality." If it were you or I in this same predicament we would have had problems urinating right about now.

One reason the off-duty Vallejo cop decided to run from Sacramento authorities was because he knew he could get away with it. If he couldn't outrun them, then once he got pulled over, he knew he could talk his way out of this mess by simply displaying his badge.

The off-duty Vallejo cop is nothing more than a product of his work environment because he was taught at an early age that flashing ones badge and asking for preferential treatment is a time-honored tradition.

For a moment, lets think about the gravity of a car chase. A car chase is a serious crime and it endangers the public as well as pursuing cops. It kills and disfigures. Once arrested, the suspect gets charged with assorted misdemeanors and felonies. Once convicted, the defendant gets a stiff fine, imprisonment in county jail, or both. Once the motor vehicle department finds out, driving privileges can be suspended or revoked.

The minute the off-duty Vallejo cop engaged Sacramento authorities in a chase and it became public knowledge, he violated the rules of his department, which clearly state he must conduct his private life in such a manner as to avoid bringing his department into disrepute and he must not seek the influence or intervention of any person outside his department for purposes of personal preferment and advantage.

What happened in Sacramento on March 17, 2002 was a public disgrace. All the players involved in this incident were “public servants.” How can our public servants ever expect to maintain public trust and confidence by behaving in this manner? It’s very clear, there are two sets of standards here; one set promotes favoritism under color of authority while the other guarantees a good beating and jail time.

Here are three news articles that document this troubling event:

Title: Off-duty Vallejo policeman leads Sacramento police and sheriffs on high-speed chase


By R.E. Graswich, The Sacramento Bee, April 8, 2002

A mysterious Jaguar sedan whose driver wasn't cited after leading at least eight Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies and city police officers on a high-speed chase March 17 was driven by an off-duty Vallejo Police Department officer, Sacramento County Undersheriff John McGinness said Monday.

A professional video photographer, Tracy Mapes, filmed officers stopping the Jaguar near Blumenfeld Drive. When the Jaguar was allowed to leave without the driver being arrested or issued a ticket, Mapes gave portions of the video to The Bee.

The video stills show officers smiling and chatting with the driver and his passenger.

"It was an undercover car who first picked up the Jag, and she kind of pulled the alarm a little prematurely," McGinness said. "It was discretionary on the officers' part not to issue a citation. We give verbal warnings in about half of the traffic stops we make."

McGinness said he did not have the name or rank of the Vallejo officer. The Sheriff's department was conducting an internal affairs investigation to determine whether deputies acted properly in allowing the driver to leave with a verbal warning, McGinness said.

Police radio reports stated the Jaguar reached speeds of at least 90 mph during the chase from Watt Avenue to Arden Way on the Capital City Freeway. Four Sacramento Police officers left the scene without contacting the driver after being told by sheriff's deputies that the situation was under control.

City police officer David Topaz, who participated in the chase, said Monday that the Jaguar topped 100 mph. "I was amazed the guy wasn't arrested or at least cited," he said.

Topaz is president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association.

Title: Officer investigated in speeding allegation


By Reporter Staff, The Vacaville Reporter, April 11, 2002

Vallejo police officials have launched an investigation into reports that one of their officers led Sacramento authorities on a brief high-speed "chase" March 17, was stopped and then was let go.

The name of the officer has not been released.

"We have been in contact with the Sacramento Sheriff's Department," said Lt. JoAnn West with the Vallejo Police Department. "We don't have much information at this point. We are not releasing information about the officer. We will be conducting an internal investigation to see if he did anything wrong."

West said the type of punishment meted out - if the officer is found guilty of an offense - will depend on the circumstances regarding the offense.

"I will not speculate," she emphasized.

According to media reports, a Sacramento sheriff's official observed a Jaguar speeding at 90 mph down Capital City freeway. The officer initially had trouble catching up with the Jaguar and other deputies joined in to help, but did not give chase, sheriff's officials said.

Once stopped, the driver apparently identified himself as an off-duty Vallejo police officer and was not issued a citation.

Officials have said that officers are allowed to exercise discretion in issuing citations to the public, the media and other officers.

The Sheriff's Department is currently investigating the officer's action.

Title: Man on the run: Vallejo police investigate officer involved in high-speed chase


By Dan Judge, Vallejo Times-Herald, April 11, 2002

The Vallejo Police Department is conducting an investigation into reports that one of its off-duty officers led Sacramento police on a high-speed chase and was subsequently released without being arrested or ticketed, Lt. JoAnn West said Wednesday.

Sacramento County Sheriff's Department officials said they also are investigating whether the officer who released him acted appropriately. They would offer few other details about the incident that took place on March 17, however.

"We're initiating our own parallel investigation into the incident but we need to get more information from the Sacramento Sheriff's office," West said. "We will be doing an internal affairs investigation to try and determine if our officer committed any violations."

West would not identify the officer, saying it was confidential because the issue was a personnel matter.

The Sacramento Bee reported this week that an unidentified Vallejo officer in a Jaguar sedan led eight sheriff's deputies and city police officers on a high-speed chase on the Capitol City Freeway that reached speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Professional video photographer Tracy Mapes filmed officers stopping the Jaguar and eventually gave stills from the tape to the Bee. The pictures reportedly show the officers smiling and talking with the driver and his passenger before releasing them without a citation.

Sacramento City Police Officer David Topaz said the incident was blown out of proportion by the news report, however.

He said the chase only involved one crime scene investigator in an unmarked police car who observed the Jaguar doing about 90 mph in a 55-mph zone of the freeway. When the investigator turned on her lights to pull the Jaguar over, the driver accelerated to more than 100 mph before stopping a short time later.

Topaz said he was the first of several police to arrive at the scene after the Jaguar had already pulled off the freeway and stopped for the investigator.

"He told that officer he thought she was a security guard, which was kind of a lame excuse, but it was completely within her discretion to cite him or not cite him," Topaz said, adding that many motorists are let off with a verbal warning.

"He would not have been arrested because speeding is an infraction and we don't arrest people in the state of California for getting infractions," he said.

Topaz said he never saw the Vallejo police officer and left after seeing the situation was under control.

Sacramento County Sheriff's officials said the incident took place in the late evening hours when traffic was light.

They would not identify any of the officers or confirm the number of patrol cars involved in the incident.

Again, when was the last time you heard of cops releasing a subject after a high-speed chase? Was Rodney King released with a warning? Where's the justice I ask you?

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