Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Using the Badge

Looks like all you need to get special treatment in College Station, Texas is be the Lieutenant's kid. This story in Sunday's Bryan Eagle had me thinking about the corrupting influence of power in our local police department. College Station Police Department Lieutenant Donnie Andreski's daughter was cited by a rookie cop for a traffic violation in October 2007. Andreski believed the evidence did not support the charge. But rather than letting the justice system do its work, Andreski intervened to apparently pressure prosecutors to dismiss the ticket.

The Eagle reported on the circumstances of the citation:
Andreski's daughter, whose name [was] redacted from the 392-page file obtained by The Eagle through an open records request, was cited Oct. 9 for disobeying a police officer's traffic direction.

Officer Mica Lunt, who was in training at the time, was directing traffic at a school crossing at Rock Prairie Road and Rio Grande Boulevard. He said he motioned for traffic to stop at a crosswalk, but the Andreski teen "did not attempt to stop until almost at the intersection and finally slammed on [the] brakes and slid through the intersection, eventually coming to a stop," according to reports.

The citation was supported by Officer Jamie Urbina, who was Lunt's field training officer and witnessed the incident.

The rookie officer's supervisor (Lt. Capps) reviewed the ticket:
Lt. Capps agreed to check into the ticket and make sure it met the designation "disobeying a police officer." Capps met Oct. 10 with Officer Lunt, who confirmed to him that Andreski's daughter had been speeding in a school zone, didn't stop at the crosswalk and "obviously committed some kind of traffic violation," Capps said during the investigation.

"Sounded to me that she needed a citation, so we kind of left it at that," Capps told the internal affairs investigator.


The ticket was ultimately dismissed by the City prosecutor and no further citation was issued.

During the internal affairs investigation Andreski said he didn't want to wait to let the ticket take its natural course through the municipal court system because he thought the charge was incorrect:
Andreski heard about the ticket from his daughter and said he was concerned that "disobeying a police officer's traffic direction" was an improper charge because it must show that a person willfully disregarded the instruction. Andreski said his daughter didn't see the officer.

"No one tried to cut a deal or do anything underhanded or sneaky," Andreski said. "There were no orders given to dismiss the ticket. My request was that we look into it and see if the elements of the offense were met.

"When the Police Department has received similar complaints, the PD always attempts to correct any mistakes made by their officers," Andreski said. "I expected to be treated the same as any other citizen. I could have taken it to court, but the outcome would be unknown." [emphasis added]
Well, join the club Lieutenant!

Andreski's handling of this situation reeked of favoritism and a double standard. What made him think his judgment of the facts was superior to that of the two officers working the intersection while his daughter barreled through? If the original ticket did not suit the evidence, why wasn't she cited for another traffic violation after the original citation was dismissed? I also think the College Station City Attorney as questions to answer.

A big concern I had was Andreski's (apparent) arrogance following the internal affairs investigation. His failure to recognize his mis-application of power was appalling. Joe Blow off the street must take his ticket to court and face the "unknown" outcome which Andreski feared. What's the problem with requiring his daughter to do the same? Using his special influence to avoid risks common to us all deserved an internal affairs investigation.

I hope the CSPD learned a valuable lesson . . . using the "badge" is much different from wearing it. We expect our police officers to exercise the highest degree of integrity and professionalism. We expect our officers to back each other. But we also expect police officers, especially those wielding great power, to exercise the utmost care in peddling their special influence.

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