St. Louis alderman calls officer who ticketed him an “a-hole” and wants him disciplined

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ST. LOUIS, MO – Who doesn’t enjoy those caught-on-camera moments when society’s elites embarrass themselves by growling “Do you know who I am?” as they attempt to intimidate their way out of a traffic citation?

The answer to their question is usually something like: “No, I don’t. Do you?”

Amusing enough, but the intent is clear: “I think I am important, and I can make your life hell if you insist on ticketing me even though I was speeding.”

It looked as though we had one such encounter recently when St. Louis City Alderman Joe Vaccaro was stopped for driving 76 mph in a 60-mph zone on an interstate.

The stop occurred just before 9 a.m. on Feb. 10 and took no longer than 10 minutes but it has since grown into a controversy with both sides asserting moral victory.

The officer’s body and dash cameras recorded the entire stop and both sides claim they exonerate each other’s behavior. In an interview, Vaccaro said:

“I believe the video speaks for itself and vindicates me.”

In a March 2 interview with KMOV News 4, Vaccaro said that he was on his way to a meeting when he was pulled over for speeding on Interstate 44 near Jefferson.

He stated to the officer that he was a St. Louis alderman and that he was running late for a meeting involving city business. Whether or not that was the “Do You Know Me” card being proffered, it could certainly be seen as so.

The officer did not seem impressed, though, as he coughed his way through the stop.

Vaccaro later in the interview called the unidentified St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer an “asshole.”

On March 3, Col. John Hayden, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, said Vaccaro owes his officer an apology for how he characterized him in the media.

“I just think that that was just totally deplorable. That, hey, an officer is working hard. This officer almost has 20 years on him. He works hard every day, and he gets defamed in that nature.”

See the source image
St. Louis Alderman Joe Vaccaro. YouTube screenshot.

The Ethical Society of Police, an organization that addresses racial issues on the job, also said Vaccaro should apologize and called the alderman’s behavior “disturbing, unprofessional and unacceptable.” The ESOP released a statement that said:

“We as the Ethical Society of Police find the behavior and accusations by an elected official to tarnish the reputation of a veteran officer, a member of the Ethical Society of Police, as well as the Chief disturbing, extremely unprofessional and unacceptable.

“The body-cam video shows the officer being nothing less than professional and polite towards the Alderman.

“The Alderman, a Chair of the Public Safety Community, was found speeding in excess of 16 mph over the speed limit. After stopping, he exited his vehicle on a busy highway and was offended because he was given a command to return to his vehicle.

“The claim of racial discrimination and the Chief offering to fix the ticket is all false accusations and the Chief, as well as the officer, deserve public apologies.”

St. Louis Police Officers Association also weighed in, with President Jay Schroeder providing the following statement:

“I find the behavior of aldermen Vaccaro very troubling. We as police officers have a very tough job and this officer did his job and did it correctly.  

Alderman Vaccaro was way out of line and his accusations have been shown to be completely exaggerated.  

How can someone sit as the public safety chair when he treats his public servants this way? I hope the police department quickly moves forward with this investigation and exonerates this officer.”

Vaccaro initially said that he would not apologize. In a March 3 interview with KSDK’s I-Team, he instead called the officer a “jerk” who gave him a ticket for having no insurance even though he produced proof he did and who violated COVID-19 policies by coughing at his open car window while unmasked.

Vaccaro now says he believes he and the officer should apologize to each other. He said:

“Do your job but be courteous.”

The alderman said the officer “coughed all over him,” and wasn’t wearing a mask during their initial conversation. Vaccaro explained:

“So, I told him I was going to call the colonel.”

He said his only intention in calling Hayden was to report the officer for not wearing a mask and asking that he be tested for COVID-19 – not because he wanted to use his political influence to get out of the ticket. Vaccaro said:

“He went back to get a mask, but he had already coughed all over me.”

Vaccaro said he called Hayden to report the officer’s conduct and the chief offered to throw out the tickets.

Hayden held a press conference following the release of the footage March 3, during which he stopped short of saying he did not offer to fix the tickets. Hayden said:

“I’ve got the discretionary power as police chief to do such a thing in that regard, in this case, I did not have to act on that in any kind of way.” 

The video shows Vaccaro stepping out of his vehicle as the officer began to approach his car. The officer yelled at him to get back in, and he complied. Vaccaro complained that the officer was coughing outside his truck without a mask on, and that’s why he was angry.

He told KSDK that he got out of his car before the officer could approach him because he was in a rush. Vaccaro admitted:

“That was inappropriate.”

He added that he has since learned that officers prefer for people to stay inside their cars and not approach them because they do not know if they could be armed or confrontational.

Vaccaro was cited for speeding and failing to provide insurance. However, the video shows the officer telling Vaccaro to look for his proof of insurance before walking back to his patrol unit. When the officer returns to Vaccaro’s truck, the alderman shows his insurance proof on his phone but is cited anyway.

The officer said he was free to contest the tickets in court and the insurance ticket would be thrown out. Vaccaro appeared to think that was less than helpful.

Vaccaro insisted he didn’t mind getting the speeding ticket and that the police should do more traffic enforcement. He said:

“I’ve been begging them to write tickets.”

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‘You know who I am, right?’: Florida congressional candidate caught on camera threatening officer’s job

February 28, 2022

SARASOTA, FL – A candidate in a Florida state congressional race has issued an apology after being caught on tape threatening a police officer’s job and making disparaging remarks about her nationality during a traffic stop.

Martin Hyde, 57, pulled over by Sarasota police officer Julia Beskin on February 14 for speeding when body camera footage captured him telling the officer she would hurt her career by issuing him a ticket.

In the video, you can hear him trying to use his status as a candidate to intimidate the officer.

In the video, the female officer explains to Hyde that he is being pulled over for speeding and texting while driving. He responded:

“You know who I am, right?

“I’ll just call the chief, how about that?”

When the officer walked back to Hyde’s vehicle to issue the citation, he made a racist comment about her nationality as an immigrant from Latvia. Hyde asked:

“Is it your Russian immigrant status that makes you talk to people like this?”

Hyde accused the officer of being rude and asked how long the seven-year police veteran had been on the force. He demanded the officer call her supervisors to the scene.

Hyde told Officer Beskin:

“Go call the chief. Tell him how rude you’ve just been to me. Play him this (bodycam) video. Then call (City Manager) Marlon Brown. Then you call the mayor.”

During the entire encounter, the officer remained professional despite the insults made by Hyde. When she tried to explain the citations being issued to him, he told her he did not want to address her any longer:

“I’m not interested. I’m a law-abiding citizen, and you’re being bloody rude to me.”

The officer continued explaining the citation and then returned to her patrol car to await backup after calling for backup for a driver being extremely uncooperative.”

At one point, Hyde told the officer she was “making career decisions.”

When backup officers arrived, Hyde told one officer:

“We’re going to make sure that she pays the price for being disrespectful.”

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The video went viral on social media and the political hopeful issued a thin apology on local news outlet WFLA blaming his “ratty” mood:

“So, this isn’t a question of Martin Hyde disliking cops, this is a question of Martin Hyde being in ratty mood on a Monday morning and acting in a way that he regrets.

“I am sorry. And I would like to think that I will learn from it. I would like to think other people might learn something from it too.”

Reportedly, he also apologized to Officer Beskin in person for being “belligerent and rude.” He paid the fines for the three citations.

He went further with an apology posted to social media, apologizing to the officer and the community for his actions:

“Just over a week ago I was stopped in Sarasota for speeding. During the stop I was belligerent and rude to the officer who stopped me. Much interest has been shown in local media and many comments made as to my behavior.

I’m not going to justify my poor temper on that day or attempt to mitigate it in any way. There will be some who will say it’s not the first time I’ve acted out and they’d be right. I have faults and one of them is to be overly aggressive on occasion when I’m challenged.

In the political arena that is possibly a good thing but on a personal level it’s not.

“I’ve apologized to the officer in question, and now I’m apologizing to the community as a whole. I’m going to do my utmost to behave better going forward. I’m not running away though as that’s not in my nature.

There is nothing more I can say or will say on this subject other than I’m sorry for any offence caused to anyone.”

Despite the apology blaming his mood, this is not the first time he has used his status to intimidate police in an attempt to gain special favor. The Herald-Tribune reported that Hyde had been involved in several similar traffic incidents:

“In 2013, officers responded to a traffic incident wherein Hyde reportedly told the officer he would contact the city manager or police chief and Hyde ‘advised this officer he would not say that he pays my salary, but he pays a lot of taxes in the city.’”

Hyde, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican, for his District 16 seat, has taken down his campaign’s Facebook page. He also set his official campaign Instagram page to private and removed his LinkedIn account.

Hyde’s campaign website remains operational, however the sections marked “store” or “donate”  and his campaign email address in the “contact” section are giving error messages.

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