We'd hoped it was an isolated incident.

We'd hoped it would turn out that the state troopers who escorted a caravan of luxury sports cars on a dangerous high-speed drive down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City on March 30, 2012, were acting outside the boundaries of normal State Police behavior.

Oh, well. Life's full of disappointments.

Last week, State Police Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry - who was sentenced to probation and community service and is barred from future public employment in New Jersey for his role in the escort scandal - told the State Police Retirement Board that high-speed escorts of VIPs and celebrities aren't a fluke. And, he said, they continue to this day.

Granted, Nassry was appearing before the board to try to keep his State Police pension, so he had an incentive to make it seem as though his behavior was no big deal.

But consider that when news of the parkway grand prix first came to light, State Police officials tried to suggest that it was a legitimate escort. And consider that another trooper, in a whistleblower lawsuit, has said that when the sports-car clubs that sponsored the event sent a letter to State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes thanking him for the escort, Fuentes forwarded a commendation memo to the supervisor of the other trooper involved, John Ventrella.

To hear Nassry tell it, the only thing unusual about the March 2012 escort was that there were so many cars involved. The 25 to 40 cars were too much for two troopers to handle effectively.

Frightened motorists on the parkway reported the incident, which was dubbed "Death Race 2012." News of expensive sports cars weaving in and out of traffic at speeds exceeding 100 mph, bookended by State Police cars with license plates taped over and lights flashing, led to an investigation.

Nassry said he had been doing high-speed escorts for years. He estimated he had been asked to ferry VIPs across the state hundreds of times.

And, he said, "Trooper escorts, in my time, were done for one reason: To get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible."

That image of State Police at the beck and call of athletes and other celebrities looking for special favors - favors that turn our highways into racetracks - is more than disturbing.

So is the idea that there is still a cowboy culture within the State Police, a culture that allows troopers to believe there's nothing wrong with high-speed escorts, as long as there aren't too many cars involved - and you don't get caught.

That's a disappointment.


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