A Prince George’s County Police Department executive review panel charged a county councilwoman with reckless driving nearly two weeks after she was let off with a slap on the wrist.

Prince George’s County Councilwoman Karen Toles initially got off easy after she was pulled over going 105 miles per hour on the Beltway. Toles was given a $90 citation for an unsafe lane change and a written warning for excessive speed.
Once word of the stop went public, the police department released a statement explaining the stop.

“The issuance of a warning citation for the speed is consistent with the typical discretion applied by police officers to speeding motorists” the statement said. “The traffic violations were captured on the police officer’s in-car camera, and the incident will be subject to command review. At the moment, the video is evidence in a pending District Court traffic case, and will not be released.”

However, reports of whether Toles received preferential treatment in the stop surfaced and police officials launched a review into the stop. Fast forward to March 6, the result of that review is the reckless driving ticket, a $510 fine and six points or her driving record.

The incident was especially troubling as Toles has had five separate traffic violations within the past three years. Among those charges were failure to wear a seatbelt, another unsafe lane change and driving off a roadway to pass a vehicle, which was also on 495. That last violation occurring just four days before she won the Democratic nomination in District 7.

There had already been calls by many citizens to strip councilmembers of county vehicles because of budgetary concerns, but this will intensify those calls. As a result, both Toles and the Council are attempting to make preemptive strikes to decrease in public scrutiny.

“As I stated earlier, I believe moving violations are serious matters. I take full responsibility for my actions and I apologize to my constituents, my County Council colleagues, and Prince George’s County,” Toles stated.  “In addition to paying the appropriate fine, I will not be driving a county owned vehicle until voluntarily completing a driver improvement course to ensure my safety and the safety of others.”

That move to no longer have the use of her county car was supported by Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison, D.-Dist. 5. According to Harrison the County is “committed to public safety.”

“The County Council supports her decision, however, until this matter is resolved, we have agreed that Council Member Toles will have no use of or access to a County assigned vehicle for her safety and the safety of others,” Harrison stated. 

Toles was not given a speeding ticket for the stop. With the six points, Toles is only two away from having her license revoked in the state of Maryland.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO