The Miami Police officer arrested for reckless driving by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper after he was spotted driving 120 mph on the Florida Turnpike should lose his job, an Internal Affairs report released Monday recommended.
Officer Fausto Lopez showed "a willful and wanton disregard for his safety and the safety of persons and property of Miami-Dade and Broward counties" in the Oct. 11, 2011 incident, according to the eight-page report obtained by the Sun-Sentinel.
Lopez had been pulled over and taken into custody at gunpoint by FHP trooper D.J. Watts as he was driving south on the Turnpike near Hollywood Boulevard.
An FHP video captured Watts' pursuit of Lopez's marked Miami Police cruiser and the dramatic showdown once Lopez finally pulled over.
Lopez, who was charged with reckless driving and later released, pleaded no contest and was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service and $3,300 for the cost of prosecution. He was also suspended for a month from the Miami Police Department.
An investigation by the Sun-Sentinel later revealed SunPass records which showed Lopez had been clocked at speeds above 100 mph 114 times in the year before the FHP stop.
Lopez's attorney in his criminal case didn't return calls to the Sun-Sentinel for comment.
Lopez has 10 days to file an appeal to the recommendations, and indicated on the report that he disagreed with the findings and suggested penalty. Chief Manuel Orosa would make the final decision on whether to fire Lopez, who has been with the department for six years.
Internal Affairs investigators also recommended 37 other officers be disciplined for off-duty speeding, Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss told the Sun-Sentinel. They could face written reprimands and or suspensions.
Many of the officers want to appeal those recommendations, Miami Fraternal Order of Police president Armando Aguilar said.
"The City of Miami is being harsher in disciplining than other departments have," Aguilar told the Sun-Sentinel. "Most other departments have been retraining officers, counseling them...I would assume most [of the Miami police officers] are going to appeal their discipline."
Miami FOP vice president Sgt. Javier Ortiz questioned the SunPass records in a statement released Tuesday.
"SunPass is effective in order to collect money to maintain our roadways. SunPass transponders are not recognized by the State of Florida as a speed measurement device. Rightfully so. Unlike SunPass, laser and radar equipment utilized by police are checked everyday that it is used, the speed is visually estimated by a Police Officer in order to compare it to the speed measurement device, and the violation is also observed by a human being," he said. "In Officer Fausto's case, there is no video, no photos, no eyewitness accounts, no calibration or certifiable documents."
He added that they are not condoning speeding, but said officers should be tracked with the same speed measurement devices that are used on everyday citizens.
"The termination of Fausto Lopez is clearly a media stunt to appease those that are unaware of how speed enforcement is properly done," Ortiz said. "We look forward in Officer Lopez's return."