Way back in 2011, we told you about the story of Faustio Lopez and Donna Jane Watts, two Florida police officers who made national headlines over concerns of police abuse of power. According to reports, Lopez, a Miami Police officer, was late for an off-duty job. While in full uniform, he ran his marked police cruiser up to 120 miles per hour on a city freeway trying to make it to work. Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Watts was one of the cars he blew past.
Uncertain of who was in the speeding car, Watts spent seven minutes with her blues-and-twos running, trying to catch the speeding Lopez. Once she pulled him over, Watts confiscated Lopez’s gun and cuffed him. Lopez eventually lost his job.
Watts’ driver’s license information had been accessed by 88 officers in 25 agencies over 200 times
Shortly after the incident, Watts alleges that she started receiving threatening and prank phone calls (some were even to order pizza), along with other forms of harassment including police cars and unmarked vehicles idling outside her house. According to MSN News, a public records request with the Sunshine State’s Department of Motor Vehicles revealed that her driver’s license information had been accessed by 88 different officers in 25 different agencies over 200 times in just a three-month span.
Watts is suing all 25 departments and the officers involved under the Driver Privacy Protect Act, which carries a $2,500 fine for each time information was illegally accessed. If every search comes back as improper, Watts is in line to receive $500,000, according to MSN. “Ultimately what it comes down to is a violation of privacy,” Mirta Desir, Watts’ lawyer, told MSN. “It wasn’t for any legitimate purpose on the part of the police officers and it was done by people in a position of trust.”
Watts’ broad targeting of offending officers has some of the accused feeling uncomfortable, with a fellow FHP Trooper, Andrew Cobb, claiming he accessed the information “out of concern for a fellow trooper” and as “a matter of public safety,” according to his attorney. There’s also some question of the wording of the law that Watts’ is suing under, with the US Department of Justice now getting involved to clarify its position.
There’s much more detail to this story than we’re able to go into here, but if you want the full rundown on the Watts’ case, check out Watts’ dash cam video of the incident below, then head over to MSN News.