Commentary: Sanford's car stop says a lot about S.C. law enforcement

The State (Columbia, S.C.)October 21, 2009 

The case of the governor's SLED agent/driver and the Highway Patrol trooper is worth lingering over, not because of what it tells us about Mark Sanford but because of what it tells us about law enforcement in our state.

It seems safe to say, at the least, that top police officials handled this situation much better than the previous roadside encounters with a politician that made headlines.

First, a bit of perspective, since that seems so hard to come by in matters concerning Mr. Sanford.

A number of Sanford supporters have complained that there was nothing newsworthy about the fact that a trooper stopped the governor’s car for doing 20 mph over the speed limit but walked away without giving the driver so much as a warning; they say it wouldn’t even have been reported had the sharks not already been circling the governor. They're simply wrong. Public Safety Director Mark Keel and SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd, through their responses, prevented this from becoming a huge deal, which is why it was largely a twoday news story. But any time something out of the ordinary occurs in a car in which the governor is riding, it's news, whether that something was good or bad, whether the governor’s approval rating is 5 percent or 100 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum, some Sanford critics have likened this incident to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer's personal ticket avoidance. That's an absurd comparison. The lieutenant governor was actually driving the speeding vehicle, not riding in it; he was driving at triple-digit speeds, not 20 miles over the speed limit; he acted deceptively to make the trooper believe he was a high-ranking police officer; he never was ticketed. Oh, and the Highway Patrol leadership handled that matter horribly, sending the message to troopers and the public that the normal rules don't apply to VIPs.

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