Speeding council member gives up county car

P.G. police official defends officer’s handling of ticket

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The Prince George’s County Council member clocked driving at least 105 mph in her county vehicle — but not ticketed for speeding — says she will give up the car until she completes a driver-safety course.

The county police department, facing scrutiny about whether council member Karen R. Toles received preferential treatment, says a team of top brass and legal experts in the department will begin a review of the incident next week.

Ms. Toles was pulled over after an officer observed her driving on the Capital Beltway at a high rate of speed and making unsafe lane changes. She was issued a $90 ticket for the unsafe lane change but only a warning for excessive speed, even though police said she was traveling more than 50 mph over the speed limit.

Assistant Chief Kevin Davis defended the officer’s decision not to issue Ms. Toles a speeding ticket, saying the 14-year department veteran who stopped her is assigned to an administrative job rather than patrol and was unable to establish the exact speed Ms. Toles was traveling. The officer did not have a radar gun, nor was he able to “pace” her to establish her speed. The 105 mph figure comes from the speed recorded on the officer’s car as he tried to catch up with her, he said.

“The officer did believe he had probable cause for one citation and he felt he didn’t have quite enough probable cause to issue a citation for the speed, so he elected to issue a warning citation,” Assistant Chief Davis said at a news conference Wednesday.

“Preliminarily, we don’t believe that this police officer afforded anyone special treatment,” he said.

Ms. Toles apologized to constituents in a statement Wednesday about the Feb. 22 incident.

“In addition to paying the appropriate fine, I will not be driving a county owned vehicle until voluntarily completing a driver improvement course to ensure my safety and the safety of others,” she said in the statement.

On Tuesday, when news of the incident broke, Ms. Toles said she was leaving a meeting and was late to her next appointment at the time she was pulled over.

Ms. Toles, a Democrat, was ticketed four other times in the past three years for traffic offenses, according to online Maryland court records.

Before the Suitland resident was elected to represent District 7 on the County Council, Ms. Toles was given a citation for driving off the road to pass a vehicle.

The September 2010 infraction cost her $110 in fines.

Six months earlier, she was also ticketed for an unsafe lane change.

Twice in 2009, Ms. Toles was ticketed for operating a vehicle without wearing a seat belt or having a child under the age of 16 not wearing a seat belt, according to court records.

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