“Unfortunately, at the speeds people are driving — 80 to 85 mph — when something goes wrong — and it will go wrong, somebody will do something inappropriate — things go wrong real fast and real violently.”
That’s what Col. Frank Milstead, the head of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said in a KTAR radio interview last year before state troopers began a 30-day crackdown on speeders along Phoenix-area freeways.
He also said:
“We will be out in our unmarked cars. It’s Operation No Need for Speed.”
And he continued:
“This is a zero-tolerance enforcement program,” he said. “Everybody will get a citation and that’s coming from me, so if you get one, I made the trooper do it.”
Fast forward to this week and we learn from body camera footage obtained by a Phoenix television station that Milstead was pulled over by a Yavapai County Sheriff’s deputy on Interstate 17 for excessive speed. A report by AZFamily.com found that Milstead was driving 90 mph and weaving through traffic without using his turn signals. He was let off with a warning after showing the deputy his department ID.
Milstead said on Twitter Wednesday that the incident in October was regrettable and one “for which I will reflect and learn.”
On Thursday Gov. Doug Ducey defended his state police chief saying Milstead is “one of the good guys,” and “even good guys make mistakes.”
He said he expects all members of his administration to follow the law, but cast it as a minor transgression.
“Let those without speeding sin cast the first stone here,” Ducey told reporters.
If the culprit had been one of any other of Ducey’s appointees, that rationale would make sense. But as the top official at DPS, Milstead oversees the Arizona Highway Patrol, which enforces traffic laws on our freeways.
His “minor” transgression would be the same as the head of Arizona’s Game and Fish Department being caught poaching, or the Arizona Department of Education head cheating on a certification exam.
I am not without speeding sin. I have received a couple speeding tickets over my lifetime. In fact years ago, while traveling from Utah to Arizona to be with family on the holidays, I got a speeding ticket on Interstate 17.
I also showed the trooper my ID — driver’s license and proof of insurance. But he didn’t let me off with a warning.
So on behalf of all the speeding sinners in Arizona, I’ll take up the governor’s challenge and cast the first stone.
Milstead needs to at least be disciplined and made to pay a fine. As the chief spokesman for DPS, how is he going to be taken seriously when he lectures the public on speeding in the future? For that matter, how are troopers going to handle the public at traffic stops who cite Milstead’s light treatment while being cited themselves.
The ancient Athenians believed that in order for democracy to survive, those in a position of power should be punished more severely for breaking the law than the average citizen. That’s why the person charged with upholding the law isn’t above the law.
The governor wants us to look at Milstead’s speeding the way we would look at our own speeding, or that of our neighbors. But Milstead is in charge of those who enforce speeding laws. He should be held to a higher standard.
Milstead should have told the deputy to do his job and issue a ticket. If he had done that, he wouldn’t be in the position he is today. In fact, I probably would have praised him for that.
During his 18 months as a state lawmaker, Paul Mosley was mocked as “Arizona’s leadfoot lawmaker.” He was stopped by troopers numerous times for speeding. He also was captured on a police body camera saying his speeding was justified because he lived so far from the Capitol.
The Mohave County Republican Party censured Mosley for his behavior.
Ducey should at least do the equivalent to Milstead.
Andy Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.