There is, of course, no official manual on how to use an official government position to get officers to tear up a ticket, but for any enterprising self-help author looking to write one, a dash-cam video featuring a purple-vest-wearing, recently resigned Caren Z. Turner might prove insightful.
During an Easter weekend traffic stop that involved her daughter, Turner flashed her gold “Port Authority of New York and New Jersey” badge and demanded that the law officers call her by her title: “Don’t call me ‘Miss.’ It’s ‘Commissioner.’ ”
She said, early and often, that she is a friend of the Tenafly, N.J., mayor and also happens to be a personal acquaintance of the police chief. She may have even been invited to attend the officers’ police academy graduation, she told them.
She made sure the officers knew they were dealing with the cream of Tenafly society, not riffraff. She is an attorney, she told them. Her daughter, she said, is a student at Yale, and the younger woman’s friends attend MIT — and the officers were ruining what had been a nice Easter weekend hike.
And when all that failed, she cursed at the officers and told them to shut up.
Turner is chief executive of Washington, D.C.-based Turner Government and Public Affairs. And until her abrupt resignation last week, she was a member of the Port Authority’s board of commissioners, which sets policy for the agency and oversees hundreds of officers. She was appointed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie last year and served on the Port Authority’s ethics committee, according to New York ABC-affiliate WABC.
But in a flash, she has become the latest prominent person to receive a public comeuppance after being caught on video lashing out at someone with a blue-collar job. (See: newscaster vs. police; ESPN reporter vs. tow truck clerk; and drunk assistant prosecutor vs. Uber driver.)
In a statement on Monday, the Port Authority said it has “zero tolerance for ethics violations” and that an investigation found Turner’s actions “profoundly disturbing.” Turner denied any ethics violations.
“At no point did I violate the Port Authority’s Code of Ethics or ask for special treatment,” Turner said in a statement sent by her lawyer. She said that she regrets her “tone toward the police officers,” but encouraged the police department to review its own de-escalation policies so that “incidents like this do not recur.”
On Tuesday, police released a dash-cam video that shows the tail end of a traffic stop, according to NJ.com.
According to the news site, Turner’s daughter was a back-seat passenger in the car in question and phoned her mom, who was elsewhere, during the traffic stop in Tenafly, a Hudson River town across the water from Yonkers. Officers had run the vehicle’s Nevada license plate and found the registration expired.
The officers were in the process of impounding the car when Turner arrived, and, in the video, at first asked Turner whether she was there to give the occupants a ride. Instead, she told the officers, “I’m just telling you who I am.”
Who she is, according to her website, is a lobbyist “with over twenty-five years federal government relations experience” who has “earned the respect of both Republican and Democratic policymakers.”
She’s a trained litigator who has worked on issues that include: defense, aerospace, genetic ethics and gun safety. She worked on the national finance committee for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and was on the Republican Congressional Committee’s business advisory council.
Her company’s D.C. office is a 15-minute drive from the U.S. Capitol, which is conveniently pictured in the firm’s website banner.
And, as the officers who encountered her on the traffic stop may have realized, “Campaigns led by Turner GPA are noted for their high energy, intense focus and no nonsense approach.”
At one point in the video, one of the officers asked Turner to “give me a little bit of space here,” saying she kept moving toward him, even though he had backed up to a patrol cruiser.
She repeatedly demanded answers: Why were her daughter and her friends stopped? What was the officers’ justification?
The officer balked, saying he has given the appropriate information to the involved parties — and Turner is not one of them.
“Miss, this does not involve you 1 percent,” he told her, saying he is not under obligation to tell her anything about the stop, the citation or the impending tow. She could ask the passengers of the car, he urged, or read it in his police report. “You have no right to know what’s going on. … I’m under no legal obligation to tell you.”
“That’s my daughter,” Turner replied, continuing to demand. “And she’s a back-seat passenger.”
“I don’t appreciate the way you approached me,” the officer responded. “The way you demanded information … based off your position in another agency, whatever it may be.”
Later, she warned him, “I’m not so nice,” and “this isn’t going to go down nicely.” She repeated the officers’ last names back to them, letting them know she has remembered them.
“I will be talking to the chief of police, and I will be speaking to the mayor,” she said.
But the officer insisted he had behaved appropriately.
“Badge Number 540,” the officer said. “Just to make sure there are no discrepancies. Matt is the first name.”