The Florida Highway Patrol is under heavy fire after a state trooper was found responsible for the death of a grandmother in a crash at over 100 miles per hour, but saw the case dismissed after the officer who wrote his citation failed to show up to trial.
Worse yet, the officers and the judge in the courtroom were seen laughing about the dismissal on video.
According to reports, it began roughly a year ago when Detrick McClellan was answering a call about people throwing rocks from an overpass. Driving without his lights on, he slammed into 51-year-old Michelle Campbell’s car at a curve with a suggested speed limit of 35 mph. The crash killed Campbell, threw her young granddaughter through the windshield, and injured her niece.
The Sun Sentinel continues:
FHP found the trooper, Detrick McClellan, at fault in the horrific crash, fired him, and cited him with three traffic violations.
But when his case came up in court, the trooper who issued the citations wasn’t there. Another trooper in attendance said that though he couldn’t represent the agency, he would not object to dismissing the tickets, and the judge did just that.
McClellan walked out with no consequences, and even got handshakes from his fellow law enforcement officers.
“If the FHP allows it to stand, what they’re saying is the law does not apply to us, even if we kill people,” said Dennis Kenney, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a former Florida police officer.
The trooper who issued the citations has been exonerated — FHP found he had a legitimate reason to miss court — but seven other troopers remain under investigation for their conduct in the hearing. FHP is still trying to sort out what happened in the courtroom.
Here’s the unsettling video from the courtroom, where the officer says he’s “easy to please” when asked if he’d like the citations dismissed, and the judge asks if she’s on Candid Camera before the group starts laughing:
CBS News reports that the FHP has fired a commanding officer and demoted a sergeant over the case, but the other officials are still being scrutinized.
Many are saying the incident points to a larger problem among Florida police officers. According to the Sun Sentinel, speeding officers have caused at least 320 accidents involving 19 deaths across the state since 2004.
But the Florida Highway Patrol says they’re doing their best to limit the danger to innocent bystanders, telling CBS News: “We have taken steps to ensure that our members understand the high ethical expectations we have of them.”