It never got as far as a citizens' arrest, but it was certainly a citizens' stern-telling-off.
A series of cellphone videos posted to YouTube on Friday showing a civilian pulling over a Miami police officer for speeding have gone viral, illustrating that public scrutiny over police practices extends beyond their use of force to traffic violations as well.
Considering the role-reversal, the traffic stop was surprisingly routine. The offender pulled over, expressed surprise that he was speeding, then apologized and promised to slow down in the future.
In the first video a woman – who identifies herself as the driver, though her face is never seen – describes how she’s been following an officer who was driving "about 100 miles an hour" and had not responded to her efforts to get his attention. In the second video she manages to pull him over, and in the third video the officer has approached her window.
"The reason I pulled you over today," the woman said, "is because I saw you, since Miller Drive when you were first jumping onto the [highway], and you were pushing 90 miles an hour."
"I just wanted to know, what’s the emergency?" she asked.
"Um, I don't know how fast I was going," the officer replied. "But I can tell you this: I'm on my way to work right now. I don't believe I was speeding."
He added that he had pulled over because he though she might have an emergency, and asked if everything was fine.
"Everything's fine," the woman said. "It's your speeding."
"Well, then I apologize," the officer replied. "I'll be sure to slow down."
Public scrutiny of the police has heightened in recent months after a series of high-profile incidents where officers have used lethal force. Some officers have complained that they have been affected by more citizens videotaping them on the job, a phenomenon FBI Director James Comey gave legitimacy to last October.
"Nobody says it on the record, nobody says it in public, but police and elected officials are quietly saying it themselves," he said at the time, adding that officers in one big city precinct told him: "We feel like we're under siege, and we don't feel much like getting out of our cars."
A dozen officers were charged in fatal shootings last year – the highest number in a decade – but prosecutions are still rare, and experts also insist the officer transgressions more often involve the kind seen in Miami than the use of lethal force. Researchers at Bowling Green State University found that, between 2005 and 2010, there were 782 cases where police officers were arrested for drunk driving. In 2013 the Florida Sun Sentinel won a Pulitzer Prize for an investigation into speeding by off-duty police officers.
In response to Friday's videos, Miami-Dade's police director Juan Perez said the department will investigate the incident "once the officer and the citizen are identified," the Miami Herald reported.