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Fla. Trooper Sues 100+ Officers, Agencies

December 30, 2012  | 

The Florida Highway Patrol trooper at the center of firestorm after she pulled over a speeding cop at gunpoint said fellow law enforcement officers have created a "life-threatening" situation that caused her to be in such fear for her safety she has become a "hermit."

Trooper Donna "Jane" Watts' 69-page lawsuit, filed in federal court Friday, seeks more than $1 million in damages. She is suing more than 100 police officers and agencies, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The suit alleges 88 law enforcement officers from 25 jurisdictions illegally accessed her personal information more than 200 times, violating her privacy.

Watts made national news in October 2011 when she pulled over off-duty Miami Police Officer Fausto Lopez for speeding in his marked patrol car on Florida's Turnpike in Broward County.

Read the full Sun Sentinel story.

Related:

Speeding Miami Cop Gets Community Service

Report: The 'Troubling Practices' of Fla. Police Speeding

Blue on Blue: The Speeding Miami Cop

Tags: Cops Suing Agencies, Florida Highway Patrol


Comments (25)

Displaying 1 - 25 of 25

rob @ 12/31/2012 5:19 PM

There are so many things wrong with the speeding incident and now this. The speeding officer was punished for his actions but it seems this lady has gotten off for her recklessness as well. It was not worth "pursuing" in rush hour traffic for speeding, then drawing down, and handcuffing. If it costs one million to get this trooper off the road then fine. I am sure she will be a supervisor one day because that is the easiest way to get rid of a problem troop.

William 322 @ 12/31/2012 6:37 PM

This will no doubt upset Liberals and Female Police Officers....but Women are too emotional to do field Police work. Put her in an office setting then just watch and wait, then get shed of her.

Manda @ 12/31/2012 7:59 PM

What does it feel like to be ignorant, William 322?

Tom ret @ 12/31/2012 8:36 PM

This law suit will not make life easier for the Florida trooper if she wants to remain with her agency. If she is getting the cold shoulder now, she can expect this to increase with the law suit. Maybe at this point she doesn't care. This case should used as a training tool for other officers how not to handle a situation involving another officer or agency. It should also be a wake up call for officers, especially off duty ones, to obey the same laws that they are enforcing.

William 322 @ 12/31/2012 9:31 PM

Manda don't take it so personally. The comment,however, obviously hit a nerve. My comment was not about you. Besides I am Rational and I am not as Emotional as you. I dismiss your comment anyway.

Jim A @ 12/31/2012 9:54 PM

This went way too far before, but now.... This is ridiculous. It has nothing to do with her being a female. Maybe someone is a (corn) flake.

Manda @ 12/31/2012 10:00 PM

Who's taking it personally? I asked you a question. I just wanted to know what it is like to be ignorant and based on your comment I figured you were a good person to ask. Narrow minded jerks always hit a nerve of mine.

It takes a brave woman to wear the badge and not only effectively perform her patrol duties, but to put up with people like yourself.

Richard Jellicoe @ 1/1/2013 2:42 AM

And we wonder why cops can not get along.

Tom @ 1/1/2013 6:59 AM

All I can say is wow to William 322's comment. First I am not a liberal or female. I use to hear comments like that 35 years ago in the locker room when female officers first came to police agencies. I retired after almost 40 years on the job going from a patrolman to Deputy Chief and had several female partners who were outstanding officers. Please don't generalize female officers as being too emotional for field work. If you can't just return to your cave.

D/Sgt B @ 1/1/2013 7:25 AM

I'd like to say I'm surprised by this lawsuit, but it seems like a logical extension by someone who's previous judgment can at best be described as questionable.

William 322 @ 1/1/2013 8:54 AM

Manda you are out of order. Knock off your sniveling.

InspGadget @ 1/1/2013 10:46 AM

Although there is alot of gender bias beins=g shwn here, I too had some outstanding Fenale Trainees over the years (as well as some very poor ones- but had poor male Trainees, too).. I think the whole idea of making a Traffic Stop on a Marked Car, then approaching at Gunpoint is LUDICROUS, unless there had been a report of a stolen Marked Car...If the Female Trooper had aproblem with this, she should have just obtained the vehicle nuumber, date & time , and sent in a formal written complaint about it, through channels...as far as her Lawsuit, it shows a singular mindset that IMHO is unsuitable for Policing... I would suggest she have a Mental Evaluation, perhaps she is eligible for a Stress Based Pension (No Gun/ Peace Officer Status- even though Medically Retired)... I do winder about the hiring criteria of FHP, that they brought her on in the first place, byut thats another topic...Be Safe!

John @ 1/1/2013 11:53 AM

Female officers: gender shouldn't be an issue in hiring, if a female can pass the same exact physical testing requirements as a male.

Trooper Watts: I would say she is a p.o.s. if she is suing solely for getting the "cold shoulder". However, her accusations of invasion of privacy could have merit.

Chief John @ 1/2/2013 5:49 AM

William 22 and Manda, you both need to grow up. She didn't handle it right from the start. She did not need to pursue or arrest. She should have got close enough to get his unit number and contacted his agency regarding his speed. The agency would have handled it and most likely took his wheels away for a while. Today, no Department can tolerate an officer's own bad judgement darken thier doorstep. We are already facing cuts and tax levies being turned down which takes our jobs. Crap like this just gives the impression we don't need or care for our jobs.

DanB @ 1/2/2013 6:52 AM

To William 322: Sounds to me you are losing this one. This is demonstrated be the fact you are now getting a tad emotional and a little testy. It's too bad female officers (and the males, as well) have to put up with pompous windbag attitudes such as yours while trying to do what is a tough job for anyone, just a little better. It's too bad we all can't meet your "perfect" standards!

Marco @ 1/2/2013 7:54 AM

I am not at all in favor of how Trooper Watts handled the original incident. If all you read was the snippet provided by Police Magazine, I, I suggest you read the entire article. I would say she has a good basis for a lawsuit. There is no reason for officers to illegally look up her personal information in the L.E. database. Then to call her home and cell phone to harass her, and to sit outside her house to threaten her. If these were civilians, or gang members acting this way, we would prosecute them. Being a law enforcement officer is supposed to be an honorable profession, which I have enjoyed for 35 years. But some seem to think it is more like a gang, (pick on one of ours and we will retaliate.) Lets go back to being the professional we claim to be.

oldcop @ 1/2/2013 8:55 AM

I am probably older than most on here so if anyone should be able to express an old fashioned view it should be me. Having said that I would like to make a general statement about women in law enforcement. I think they have been an asset and a great resource. However not all are fitted for patrol just like not a males have the ability to be patrol officers. Speaking in general terms I think women have more to overcome in this role, both physically and emotionally but that doesn't mean they are not capable. This issue I see that bothers me is the lowering of standards to make individuals fit that probably shouldn't be there.

Dave @ 1/2/2013 5:19 PM

I would like to applaud Tpr Watts for doing what needed to be done. This was not someone "accidentally" speeding being pulled over by a trooper. This person was averaging 103 mph and completely disregarded Trooper Watts attempt to stop him. Had he pulled over and been apologetic then she could have likely just called his supervisor. I have been in law enforcement for over 20 years and have written tickets to police officers for reckless driving. I am amazed when those officers ask for "professional courtesy". Professional courtesy is a two way street and police officers are not exempt from traffic laws unless they are performing their duties. Police officers should be held to a higher standard and as such he still didn't get what he deserved. What kind of example does this (now ex-) officer set to the public when he drives 100+mph, in a marked patrol car while weaving in and out of traffic. Any other non law enforcement person would have been arrested and had their car towed for doing the same thing. Hopefully he never gets a job in law enforcement again and Tpr Watts should be given an award. I would love the opportunity to shake her hand and commend her for her actions. It sucks that she is being treated this way by other police officers. I think they need to reevaluate their profession.

Tom Ret @ 1/2/2013 5:41 PM

Dave-There are a lot of us on this forum with 30 +/- years of experience. I doubt a majority of street officers think the trooper handled this correctly. Removing the officer at gun point and then handcuffing him was simply an overreaction. Yes, the speeding officer was in the wrong but the way the trooper handled it lead to the national exposure that this case developed. If this trooper does not know by this time that it could and should have been handled differently then she does not belong in police work in my view. The trooper does not deserve to be harassed, however, if that in fact is happening.

George Brazzale @ 1/2/2013 10:00 PM

The female trooper should not be critisized, but then again she should not have stopped a marked police vehicle.... What happened to comrodery and fellowship. I have been a Police officer for 39 years and believe me, common sense and brotherhood is fading fast with the new generation that is being hired. She needs to suck it up and be a police officer not a cry baby.

Vixen63 @ 1/3/2013 7:46 PM

Is it me or is everyone forgetting the fact that the fact that but for the actions of the "off-duty" officer's actions, NONE of this would have happened? Why is Trooper Watts being ostracized for her actions? Okay, I wasn't there, and I am assuming none of the commentators here and past were either, so we don't know the "whole" story but we do know, the speeding cop acted as though he was ABOVE THE LAW because of his police status and anyway you slice it he was WRONG. Okay, was she ordered to back off, perhaps, did she make a judgement call and continue to pursue to get a reckless driver off of the street, yes she did, did you remove him at gunpoint and handcuff him, yes she did, but tell me, is this NOT what she was trained to do in a dangerous situation? If anything, TRAINING is an issue here and perhaps a reprimand for disobeying a direct order if indeed that is what she did; HARASSMENT is not the answer and if it takes a lawsuit to get them to knock it off then so be it. Remember EVERY ACTION has a REACTION. So all of those involved in her harassment, which according to our policy here, is a form of Sexual Harassment-Hostile Work Environment, and is a major liability for the City. And for those of you who are trying to equate her actions to the fact she is female is totally ridiculous and tell me, if it were a Male trooper instead of Watts what then?

Brian B @ 1/5/2013 4:17 PM

An international perspective from Australia.

If the speeding officer is was an operational police member in Victoria, Australia - he would have been booked. If he hadn't and the hierarchy found out; the officer who didn't do the booking would have to answer why? Albeit our laws are different, that is the officer needs to justify his need for speeding, the principles are the same.

Gender should be left out of the debate. The issue is whether this officer is being treated differently because of what they did? If true, then those who access her details unlawfully or unwarranted, have a case to answer.

Re: cold shoulder. No officer wants to go out thinking that their colleagues will not back them up. The cold shoulder is childish.

MT026 @ 1/14/2013 5:18 AM

This is why the FHP should be merged with the FDLE and make one State Police Agency. One where you start out as a bumper chaser, and move on laterally to a job where you investigate real crimes. The HP mentality is one of hypocrisy and ego. I do support traffic enf., but also believe we should look out for one another, and have a chance to become a well rounded Officer, not just one that only knows how to write tix and work crashes.

198 @ 3/27/2013 9:13 PM

Question... If you saw a marked police vehicle driving without lights and siren at 103 MPH, why would you not assume that it had not been stolen or carjacked? Until you establish the officer assigned to the vehicle was OK, why would you not pursue it? Police cars can be stolen and so can police uniforms. The fact that the driver did not yield to the trooper immediately just made the situation even more suspicious. And why in the world would officers from other agencies with no connection to this case what so ever being looking up this trooper's information in LE databases? Especially knowing that such inquiries are logged?

E M PIG @ 10/2/2013 5:51 PM

I've read the lawsuit in its entirety and Troop Watts most certainly does have a case and that is why agency after agency has been settling out of court with her lawyers.

It's a crime to violate someone's 4th amendment rights, and you cops should be ashamed of yourselfs for not recognizing a felony when one, or in this case hundreds are presented. There's a clear paper trail, and each and every person that broke the law should be jailed, just like the rest of us would have had we broken the law.

See you in court coppers!

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