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Wednesday, May 31, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Police officer charged with reckless driving

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

BELLEVUE

A Bellevue police officer has been charged with reckless driving for crashing his patrol car while speeding, lights flashing, to an off-duty meeting with his child's teacher.

But police commanders haven't decided how the March accident will affect respected veteran Officer Michael Munko's job. In addition to his upcoming court appearance, he faces discipline ranging from a warning to dismissal.

"We've reviewed the facts, but we want to see where the charge takes us," interim Bellevue Police Chief Larry Lorack said yesterday.

"He's very well thought of, both internally and with the public he serves, but we have to realize he has to be held to a high standard. He did wrong, and he has to expect accountability."

Munko is charged in Seattle District Court with reckless driving, a misdemeanor. His arraignment was postponed yesterday.

Munko's patrol car veered off Southeast Summit-Landsburg Road near Maple Valley on March 29, smashed through a pole, flipped and skidded on its roof before stopping in the middle of the road.

Witnesses reported Munko's car whizzed past them as fast as 80 mph, the red-and-blue lights on the roof flashing, charging documents say.

Munko, 34, suffered minor injuries. The car was demolished.

At the scene, Munko, who lives in Maple Valley, told King County sheriff's deputies that he was late for a parent-teacher meeting.

Munko, a school-resource officer assigned to Bellevue's middle schools, was one of several officers allowed to drive their squad cars home at night. But no officer has permission to use emergency signals while off duty, police said.

After facing the misdemeanor charge, Munko will face a review board at the Police Department, Lorack said. Munko, who remains on duty, has been with the department 10 years and has an otherwise flawless record, his superiors said.

"But he knows how serious this is," Lorack said. "There's going to be serious accountability."

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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