- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

A New Jersey sheriff is hopping mad that a Virginia deputy pulled over part of a 12-car convoy of his lawmen on their way home from helping with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and told the officers to slow down.

“How about if Augusta County [took] the manpower [they used] to obstruct the vehicles of people helping hurricane victims and instead sent them down to help hurricane victims?” Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale told The Washington Times yesterday. “There were a number of conversations, and I still feel the way I feel.”

Augusta County Deputy Michael Roane stopped the vehicles from the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department and the Waynesboro Police Department along Interstate 81 on Sept. 18, after Virginia State Police received calls from concerned motorists complaining of the convoy’s speed.

Augusta County Capt. Dwight Wood said the deputy clocked the convoy at 95 mph. And the New Jersey officers, he said, weren’t exactly deferential to their Virginia counterpart when he tried to persuade them to turn off their lights and slow down.

The officers were “asking ‘Why are you stopping us?’” Capt. Wood said. “Finally our officer diffused any hostility and indicated they could slow the units down and continue on through 81.”

Deputy Roane later called Sheriff Speziale to further explain the situation.

“It snowballed from there,” Capt. Wood said.

According to a taped telephone conversation between Deputy Roane and Sheriff Speziale obtained by the Waynesboro News Virginian, Sheriff Speziale called the stop “unacceptable.”

“If you think that that’s not a disgrace, you should take the badge off your shirt and throw it in the garbage,” Sheriff Speziale told the deputy.

“We just had guys down there for the last 14 days helping our brothers in blue. You know what? You need to get off of that highway, pal, and wake up and learn what law enforcement is all about — supporting each other,” the sheriff continued.

When the deputy asked the sheriff whether he would like to hear his side of the story, the sheriff replied, “I don’t care what your side of the story is.”

Capt. Wood said the conversation prompted Augusta County Sheriff Randall Fisher to contact Sheriff Speziale by phone and by letter.

“The sheriff in that county still pretty much defended his officers and thinks the stop shouldn’t have been made,” Capt. Wood said.

Sheriff Speziale said a New York Police Department convoy traveling home from a Katrina relief effort was stopped by Virginia troopers in the same area. He also said his officers stopped to help during two traffic accidents in Tennessee.

“My statement to [Sheriff Fisher] was that if it happened here in the northeast corridor we understand what it’s like to handle an attack and support each other,” Sheriff Speziale said. “We would’ve done what other states did — they waved us on and some provided us escorts.”

Sheriff Fisher was not available for comment yesterday, but Sheriff Speziale said the two men had “agreed to disagree.”

“There won’t be no apologies,” he said.

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