LAKELAND, Fla. -- The city's entire police K-9 unit received suspensions following the outcome of a speeding investigation.
Nine members of the Lakeland Police Department's K-9 unit on Feb. 23 drove to Santa Rosa County, Florida, to compete in the U.S. Police Canine Association Regional Field Trials, according to an investigation summary released by the department.
Later that week on March 3, eight of the nine officers drove back together. It wasn't until that evening that Chief Larry Giddens' phone rang: an employee at Florida's attorney general office said he was on I-10 and saw several Chevy Tahoes speeding in excess of 80 mph.
The vehicles were marked with Lakeland Police Department insignia and the K-9 lettering, the summary reads.
Giddens called Sgt. Aaron Peterman, who was traveling with the group, to slow down.
The following members became part of the investigation on March 10:
-Sergeant Aaron Peterman
-Officer Ryan Back
-Officer Jeff Barrett
-Officer Cory Bowling
-Officer Virgil Cardin
-Officer John McLaughlin
-Officer Travis Miller
-Officer Chad Whitaker
-Officer Jeremy Williams
Authorities found some members drove at speeds of up to 101 mph, and dash-cam footage showed Barrett's vehicle speeding at 84 mph in an area with a 45-mph limit.
Barrett had driven separately from the main group.
Five officers, including Bowling, Cardin, McLaughlin, Miller and Whitaker, admitted to filling up their vehicles' SD cards "specifically to prevent recordings of their travels to and from the trials," the summary states.
Sgt. Gary Gross, a spokesperson for the department, said it had nothing to do with the speeding. They simply didn't want their conversations recorded for the seven hour drive, he explained.
The investigation found all members broke the speed limit at one point or another. Members' consequences range from an 8.4-hour suspension to a 16.8-hour suspension.
"I am embarrassed and very disappointed by the actions of these officers," said Giddens, in part. "We hold every member of this police department to the highest standards and expect them to represent our agency with an exceptional level of professional conduct at all times.
"Although each officer involved has taken full responsibility for their actions, they cannot take back the embarrassment placed upon this agency and their fellow colleagues."
The officers will not be suspended at the same time. The suspensions will rotate.
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