Iowa Lawman Suspended After Pursuing Governor's Speeding SUV

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Iowa police officer Larry Hedlund was trying to make sure a speeding car was pulled over. But he says he lost his job. The whole point of police and other public security jobs is to treat everyone equally before the law. So that means that any car gets pulled over for speeding, even if it's carrying a state governor. It appears it was that equal-minded approach to the law that motivated Larry Hedlund, a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, to pursue the case of one speeding car back on April 29. Hedlund was on duty when a black Chevrolet SUV was picked up as traveling Highway 20 at a "hard 90," as Hedlund sized it up at the time.

But unnamed patrol officers and dispatchers reportedly ditched the pursuit when they surmised that Iowa governor Terry Branstad was inside the car. (Pictured above is an image from video of the chase; the raw video is below.) In response, Hedlund decided after that weekend to complain to his managers about the special treatment, according to his lawyer, Tom Duff. The governor, for his part, says that he had no idea about what might have been going on. Regardless, two days later, Iowa state agents showed up at Hedlund's home to take his gun, badge, car, phone and laptop and told him that he was being placed on indefinite leave as of May 1, according to Duff. But after the Des Moines Register recently obtained audio of the incident, the Iowa Department of Public Safety confirmed that it was investigating the matter.

Hedlund's attorney says that his client was not surprised by his treatment. "He feared exactly what was going to happen. If he raised that issue, there was going to be some retaliation," Duff told The Associated Press. "If he raised that issue, there was going to be some retaliation. ... [i]f you ask him, he'd do it again."

Soon after Hedlund noticed the speeding car, he called a dispatcher for help and backup. He also clocked the SUV's speed at 84 miles per hour. But it soon became clear that this was no ordinary police chase when the SUV's license plates were not found in the system. Patrol officers, including Matthew Elmers, did eventually catch up to the SUV, even passing a school bus to get close to the car during a chase that covered 15 miles. But the speeding vehicle was never pulled over.

For Hedlund, the reason behind the hands-off treatment was all too clear. "It was the governor," he can be heard saying on the recording. "As if my career doesn't have enough problems the way it is," he added.

But Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Branstad, said that despite the timing, Hedlund's leave was unrelated to the speeding incident. A 25-year veteran of the Iowa police force, Hedlund has had "other issues with leadership," in the words of his attorney. Officially, Hedlund was told the suspension resulted from his "insubordination."

For his part, Branstad said that he was completely unaware of the incident as it was happening. When contacted by Iowa television outlet WHO-TV, he said, "I don't try to backseat drive or tell the troopers what they should do. I have confidence in them and I think they do a good job."

The report from WHO-TV also pointed out that the results of the investigation may never make it to the public because they've been labeled a "confidential personnel matter."



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