Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wrong side of the law

The trooper's name sounded familiar, but I wasn't quite sure...

While working with the Observer-Reporter on May 29, 2009, we heard on the scanner a police chase involving a motorcycle on the interstate. The bike crashed, so my editor looked over and asked me to go to the scene and find out what happened. I obliged and rolled up to the crash -- as I had in numerous other interstate crashes since 2005 -- and got out of my car to investigate.

I walked up to a Cecil Township police officer and asked her if she could locate a state trooper to help me out with the accident. A few hundred feet away was a crashed bike near several state police cruisers and ambulances. But before she returned, a state cop on a motorcycle rode up to me and asked me what I was doing there.

"Hi, my name is Mike Jones, and I'm with the Observer-Reporter," I told him. "Do you know what happened here?"

"No," the motorcycle trooper said to me.

"Can I talk to the supervising officer?" I responded.

"No," he said. "You have to go."

"Can I stand in the grassy medium?" I asked, since in four years I had never been kicked out of an accident scene.

"No. You have to leave," he said.

So I walked back to my car and called my editor, Liz Rogers. We had been struggling for several months to get timely press releases from state police based in the Washington barracks. Those press releases are the lifeblood of a news organization trying to get the daily crime updates to the public. But about five minutes after talking to my editor on the phone, the trooper rolled back up on his bike and ordered me to surrender my license and registration.

"What is going on?" I thought.

He let me sit there on the side of the road for another seven minutes while he took my information. When he returned, he cited me for failing to follow traffic instructions from a uniformed officer and failing to change my registration address. I didn't know his name, but it would become the subject of much debate at a later time.

I appealed the citation with District Justice Jay Weller, who decided that I was not wrong for parking my car on the side of the road to obtain information for the story. The media is protected by Constitutional rights that permit us access to some places where the general public is not allowed. Both citations were dismissed and I felt vindicated for my work. But the trooper who cited me would become entrenched in a much greater story less than a year later.

I forgot his name, but later I learned the trooper was Edward Joyner: the same person who is being investigated for his role in the Ben Roethlisberger saga. He's the "bodyguard" who allegedly stood in the way of several sorority girls as they tried to get their friend out of a dank Georgia bar bathroom with Roethlisberger. Now, the Pennsylvania State Police are investigating the case to see whether Joyner acted wrongly in the situation.

The Roethlisberger allegations are shocking to me, but I am willing to wait to see how the Steelers and NFL handle the situation. Still, while most Pittsburghers have their eyes on Big Ben and his suspension, my attention is focused squarely on how the state police handle the actions of Trooper Edward Joyner.

And I wonder if he told those girls standing in the Georgia bar hallway the same thing he told me: "No. You have to leave..."


  1. UPDATE: Pennsylvania State Police have removed Joyner from Roethlisberger's security detail, according to the Post-Gazette. State police said in a press release that Joyner "violated the stipulations of the approved application; that he exceeded the scope of the employment description listed; and that in doing so he is alleged to have demeaned the image of the Department."

    State police are continuing to investigate and "should violations of regulations have occurred, no matter the location of this incident, appropriate actions will be taken."

    Read more:

  2. What's up with PA troopers still having 1980s-style light bars? I know that have more money than the WVSP, yet our troopers have the low-profile, bad-ass, LED bars.

  3. That's just their style, I guess. I have seen a few with those new LED bars, but most still use what's in the picture. It's almost as distinctive as theirs and uniforms.

  4. I can't imagine that the state police are very pleased about the way Joyner is being portrayed in reports out of Georgia.

  5. I can't imagine that Joyner will be a state trooper for much longer.