Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A MAN IN A HURRY

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 21, 2005


Gov. Bill Richardson is the center of another speeding controversy.

According to a report Monday by Channel 13’s Larry Barker, a state police driver for the governor refused on June 2 to stop for an Albuquerque police officer who noticed the governor’s white Cadillac sports utility vehicle “speeding and driving erratically” on an interstate frontage road in Albuquerque.

Barker’s report showed footage of the chase and a recording of the Albuquerque police officer. The report didn’t say how fast the governor’s driver was going.

A spokesman for Richardson referred questions about the incident to the state Public Safety Department, which called the incident “a simple misunderstanding,” noting that the Albuquerque officer was in an unmarked car and not in uniform.

In a written statement, DPS spokesman Peter Olson said, “there was no procedure in place for the governor’s driver to verify it was indeed an APD unit. Under those circumstances, state police are trained to take evasive action and not to stop.

Likewise, there was no procedure in place for the APD officers to make contact with the Governor’s vehicle.”

“They had flashing lights and a siren, but that doesn’t cut it,” Olson told The New Mexican.

Because of the incident, there now is a direct phone line state police can use to instantly communicate with Albuquerque police dispatchers, Olson said.

The report comes at a time in which state Republicans are airing radio commercials blasting Gov. Bill Richardson’s “high roller” lifestyle, including his driving habits. One ad says Richardson “isn't bothered by speed limits.”

Richardson’s speeding first was picked up on the political radar in 2003 when a Washington Post reporter, traveling with Richardson on the way to a political function, noted that the governor ordered his driver to go faster when they already were in excess of 100 mph.

There have been similar reports of Richardson’s speeding since then. Public Safety Secretary John Denko has defended Richardson’s high speeds, calling the practice a security measure.

Olson’s statement Monday says, “ The state police officer driving correctly followed the procedures mandated to safely and securely transport the governor ... the state police will continue to take every precaution and follow recognized procedures to ensure the safety of the Governor ...”

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