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NYPD Stopped in Virginia

September 30, 2005

Was the NYPD's 80-truck motorcade with 300 officers, dispatched to New Orleans to give humanitarian assistance, pulled over on two Virginia highways and then disrespected by Virginia State Police?

You be the judge.

There on the Internet was the story by an anonymous writer, presumably part of the convoy.

"The matter that most concerns me," he wrote, "was the handling of our motorcade of humanitarian assistance ... with supplies, relief personnel and the heart of Americans who care.

"Virginia state troopers chose to pull over the entire caravan of marked New York City police vehicles and other buses and support equipment. The reasons for the largest car stop in America was proudly stated by your elite troopers as follows:

"'Boy, do you know that in the state of Virginia your [sic] not allowed to use emergency lights unless you are responding to an emergency? Also you are outside of your jurisdiction and you are just considered commercial vehicles and are not allowed to ride in the left lane so you remain in the right lane."

With that e-mail was a picture of a white-shirted NYPD lieutenant standing on the side of a highway, a gray-clad trooper beside him.

Corinne Geller, the public relations manager for the Virginia State Police, acknowledged an incident did occur, but hardly as it was portrayed on the Web.

"What happened was that the procession, which was proceeding southbound on I-95, pulled over on the side on its own volition in Caroline County south of Fredericksburg. They were already on the side of the interstate when our trooper pulled over to check that no one was injured and no vehicle was disabled," Geller said.

She identified the white-shirted NYPD lieutenant as James Griffin and even provided a phone number for him, adding that the trooper later stopped traffic to let the procession back into the southbound lane and escorted it to the end of Caroline County.

Griffin confirmed he was indeed the white-shirted lieutenant, but referred further questions to Sgt. Kevin Hayes of the NYPD's public information department, who was part of the convoy. Hayes refused to comment. A source in the convoy confirmed Geller's account.

 

Case closed, you might think.

It turns out, however, there was a second incident on the return trip. According to Geller, it occurred on Interstate 81 in the Appalachian Mountain range in southwest Virginia, which Geller described as having "steep inclines, narrow lanes, sharp curves and heavy tractor-trailer traffic.

"It is a very dangerous stretch," she said, "and we were receiving calls from motorists about an extensive procession of vehicles in the left lane with their lights on."

Enter Virginia State police First Sgt. C.W. Murphy, who Geller said "got the attention of the lead vehicle and pulled him over."

"He explained that not only were they placing themselves in harm's way because they were not familiar with that stretch of road, would they mind traveling in the right lane and not using your lights?

"We did a courtesy stop to let them know," she said.

Here now is what an NYPD chief, who asked that his name not be used, said of Murphy's "courtesy stop."

"This guy gave them a very hard time. He pulls them over, speaks to the highest-ranking person, says we are getting complaints," the chief said.

"Why would a Virginia state trooper stop a police car in the left lane when they are obeying the speed limit? They are allowed to be in the left lane and the right lane is dangerous. They have their lights on for safety reasons.

"Every other state gave them a police escort," the chief said.

The big six. Six current or retired high-ranking black NYPD officers also turned up in New Orleans this week in a 40-foot tractor-trailer and with $10,000 worth of donations - but with no backing from the NYPD.

One of the six, Capt. Eric Adams, who has been a thorn in the side of department brass, said the group tried to secure NYPD approval "but they didn't even send us back a reply."

Adams' take on the convoy stop in Virginia: "It's a humbling experience. But the NYPD has a history of disrespecting other municipalities, like Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy in New Jersey. Now they know how it feels."

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.