— Police officials say an allegation that two officers turned on their lights and sirens while driving to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to fetch hockey equipment for the Florida Panthers before Sunday night's game is true.
The incident came to light late Monday after someone claiming to be a Sunrise resident sent an email to City Manager Alan Cohen and the entire City Commission.
"The police were asked to do it because the Panthers didn't think their vehicle could get to the airport and back by game time," the email said. "The police agreed to go to the airport with the Panthers employee with their lights and sirens on! When did it become OK to drive with lights and sirens on for nonsense like this? ... I also asked a few Sunrise cops if they can drive with lights and sirens on with civilians in the car and the answer was NO."
Police Chief John Brooks confirmed that the officers went to the airport to pick up the equipment while working an off-duty detail at the arena.
"It was an emergency," Brooks said.
The department has reviewed the matter and determined that no policies have been broken, Sgt. Rodney Hailey said.
"They drove down there safely," Hailey said. "They did have their lights and sirens on. They didn't drive in a reckless manner. They drove in an expeditious manner to get down there and get back. And the game started on time."
Hailey said he did not know whether the officers were speeding on the way to the airport and back.
That's a key question that deserves to be answered, said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
"I don't think anyone can give the authority to blow through lights," he said. "This story brings up a lot of ethical and liability questions."
The game was to be televised at 6 p.m. But some of the players' equipment did not arrive at the airport until 5 p.m.
"The Panthers had three players get injured from a previous game and they called up five players from the minor leagues," Hailey said. "The players arrived but their baggage got lost — and their baggage is their sports equipment."
Lt. William Glennon gave approval for both officers, one in a squad car and another in an unmarked unit, to drive to the airport to pick up the equipment. He also allowed a Panthers official to go along.
The Sunrise Police Department has a contract with the BB&T Center to provide escorts for the teams and artists as part of any off-duty detail.
"The officers were not on the city's dime," Hailey said. "The escort was paid for by the arena."
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