Police officer caught on video passing school bus suspended

An investigation is underway after a video surfaced on social media.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 11:54 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Concord Police officer is suspended for five days without pay for passing a stopped school bus.

The incident was caught on video by a parent of a child on the bus and on Thursday the Concord Chief of Police Gary Gacek issued a statement announcing his decision to suspend the officer.

The Concord Police Department told WBTV that it had identified the person in the car as Sergeant Matthew Willet.

Gacek’s statement, in full, is below.

“This week, a concerned parent posted to social media a video of a Concord Police cruiser illegally passing a stopped school bus. Parents of the child on that bus -- as well as many in our community -- were angry about what they saw. As a parent whose children rode the school bus for many years, I completely understand that anger. This officer, Matthew Willet, did the wrong thing.

The State Highway Patrol is the agency with jurisdiction where this occurred. We immediately gave them all the information they requested so they could investigate the officer’s actions. They ticketed and charged Matt for passing a stopped school bus, a class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. He’ll have to appear in court, just like anyone else who’s cited for the same violation.

But Concord police officers are held to higher standards. After completing an internal personnel investigation, I’ve decided to suspend Matt without pay for five days.

Matt accepted full responsibility for his mistake and deeply regrets what happened. The investigation showed that he was behind another car in traffic when he pulled into a turn lane to turn right into a neighborhood. He failed to see the flashing lights and was unaware the bus was stopped to let a child off. While we all make mistakes, police officers carry an extra responsibility to do everything they can to avoid them.

Some on social media have called for me to fire Matt over his mistake. This was a serious error and he is being held accountable for it, but I want to be clear: this simply doesn’t rise to the level of firing him.

Matt is a 15-year veteran who’s dedicated his life to keeping our community safe. He’s been an engaged officer in our community, participating in countless youth and civic education programs, and spent much of his career as a K9 officer. He has never had a citizen complaint during his entire career and has been commended multiple times for his performance.

Our job as police officers is to keep our community and especially our kids, safe. Matt made a mistake, and in doing so, fell short of our duty in that regard.

I’m sorry we’ve let you down. I want to reassure you that our priority is keeping our residents and visitors safe while earning the trust of those we serve,” Gacek said.

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