Crossroads of Accountability: DUI suspension highlights troubling driving behavior within Lexington Police

LEXINGTON, KY – The driving standards of the Lexington Police Department (LPD) are under scrutiny as Officer Derrick Walton faces a two-month unpaid suspension following charges of driving under the influence and reckless driving related to an injury collision. This incident, which occurred on October 30, 2022, is adding to growing concerns regarding a pattern of questionable driving behavior within the LPD. “Someone’s life could have been lost,” council member Tayna Fogle said, “and so I don’t know how this [police disciplinary] board reviews things, but if we are going to make allowances for your officers and civilians are punished more harshly, I’m having a problem with that.”

The Case of Officer Derrick Walton

Ofc. Derrick Walton (Scott County Detention Center)

On Thursday, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted to approve the two-month unpaid suspension of Officer Derrick Walton, who was arrested in Scott County on October 30, 2022 after being involved in a wreck on McClelland Circle. Walton faced charges of driving under the influence, reckless driving, and wanton endangerment, according to court records cited by the Herald-Leader. He eventually pleaded guilty to DUI and reckless driving and was sentenced to seven days in jail along with fines exceeding $600.

The LPD Chief, Lawrence Weathers, clarified that Walton was off-duty at the time of his arrest. An internal disciplinary board had recommended the suspension, and Walton is now slated to receive additional training through the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training in Richmond.

Weathers also disagreed with Fogle’s assessment that civilians are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than police officers:

Again, we keep the criminal matter separate from the administrative matters. The court case was handled by the courts and they typically are — they handle those matters the same as everybody else.

I haven’t seen throughout my career that officers get any kind of benefit. I have seen that the court system treats people as human beings and tries to be fair and equal. So I can I can only assume that that’s what happened with this officer.

Police Chief Lawrence Weathers

Fogle was the only member to vote against the suspension.

Police Chief Lawrence Weathers speaks at the June 15, 2023 council meeting. (LexTV screenshot)

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Walton’s arrest occurred on the same weekend when another LPD recruit, Justin Roberts, was also arrested for DUI following involvement in a multi-vehicle collision on I-75. Roberts had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.154, nearly double the legal limit, and resigned from the department shortly after the arrest.

Tragically, the same weekend saw the death of Officer Logan Kendall Medlock from the London Police Department, who was killed in the line of duty when his vehicle was struck by an alleged drunk driver.

Patterns of Recklessness

It is important to note that these are not isolated incidents. On March 24, 2023, another LPD officer, Wesley Watkins, was disciplined after being involved in his third at-fault collision within 12 months. The first of these incidents occurred on April 26, 2022, when Watkins, distracted by an incoming text message, allowed his cruiser to roll into another vehicle while stopped at a red light. Texting while driving is illegal under Kentucky law. Nevertheless, Watkins does not appear to have been cited for the violation, according to a formal complaint documenting the incidents.

Chief Weathers informed the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council that Watkins would undergo additional training and monitoring. The council inquired about the department’s policies on collisions and was informed that recurring training for driving is in place.

Growing Concerns

Citizens are closely monitoring the proceedings and the steps that the LPD will take to ensure responsible and safe driving practices among its officers. The combination of driving under the influence and distracted driving among officers tasked with protecting the public is deeply concerning and calls for decisive action.

As Councilwoman Fogle highlighted the disparity in consequences, it remains to be seen if changes will be enacted to hold officers to the same or higher standards as civilians.

DUI suspension highlights troubling driving behavior within Lexington Police
Video of the police discipline portion of the June 15 council meeting

Top photo: Tayna Fogle speaks at the June 15, 2023 council meeting. (LexTV screenshot)