Deputy cited for school bus arm violation
A Washington County Sheriff’s deputy will have his day in court after being cited for allegedly committing a school bus stop arm violation in a Washington County squad car on Nov. 12.
Dep. Kirk Bailey has entered a non-guilty plea to the charge of unlawful passing of a school bus after being cited on Nov. 14. The case is being handled by the Jefferson County Attorney’s office and a hearing will take place in Washington County court at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 18.
In a written statement to The Washington Evening Journal, Bailey said, “I and other Law Enforcement officers are no different than anyone else and I plan to take full responsibility for my actions.”
According to the court reports, a Washington School District bus driver reported on Nov. 12 he was stopped in the 400 block of South Ninth Avenue in Washington at about 7:16 a.m. to pick up a student. He reported that at the time he looked out the windshield of the bus and saw a sheriff’s car coming toward the bus that was not slowing down to stop. He said that he looked directly at the vehicle as it passed and proceeded on. The report said that Bailey was not looking at the bus driver, but appeared to be looking down at the computer in the vehicle. The estimated speed of travel was reported to be 20 mph. The report said the stop arm and stop lights were activated.
Washington School District transportation director Woody Harden said that the information from the bus driver and the on-board camera video were given to the Washington Police Department. Standard procedure is for the bus driver to get the license number and as much information about the vehicle and driver as they can. Harden said the driver had recognized Bailey.
“I think it is important people know that on Aug. 15, the (Department of Transportation) stiffened the penalties for a stop arm violation to include a 30-day suspension (of a driver’s license) for a first offence if they are found guilty,” Harden said. “The idea of Kadyn’s Law and the stiffer penalties from the DOT are to deter people from going through a stop arm or go around a bus if they are loading or unloading children.”
On Nov. 16, the Jefferson County Attorney was appointed as special prosecutor. Washington County Attorney Larry Brock said that it is standard for the county attorney’s office to request an attorney from another county handle case involving a county deputy.
“Obviously we work closely with them on a daily basis, so we view it as a conflict of interest,” Brock said. “We get the attorney general’s office involved in more serious cases or if it is less serious we find another county attorney in the area to take it over for us.”
He said a traffic violation could bring a $250 fine and a 30-day suspension of a driver’s license. He also said there have been cases in the county where offenders with good driving records were given the option of pleading guilty to reckless driving, which would not include the requirement of losing the driver’s license unless another violation occurred.
Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar said that he is still looking at options to deal with the situation. He said that the department is waiting to see if guilt is determined before deciding how to proceed.
“If one of our deputies is cited by another law enforcement officer, they are treated like every other citizen,” he said.