The Los Angeles Police Department has changed policies regarding crashes involving officers after a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that officers caused 1,250 in a three-year period, two of which resulted in loss of life.
Under the terms of the revamped policy, any time an officer is involved in a traffic accident in which someone is killed or injured badly enough to require hospitalization, a team of detectives and officers trained in crash reconstruction will go to the scene immediately.
The team will preserve skid marks and other physical evidence needed to reconstruct the crash and will interview witnesses and compel the officers involved to give their account of what happened, Cmdr. Michael Williams told the Los Angeles Police Commission at the oversight board’s weekly meeting.
Until now, LAPD officers involved in crashes had not been required to speak with investigators, while witness interviews were conducted by regular officers who failed to ask pertinent questions, Williams said. Also, crucial physical evidence was often compromised because accident scenes were not secured, he said.
He added that crash investigations have suffered from a lack of continuity and expertise because investigations are typically started by the department’s crash experts and then reassigned to detectives who are not required to have experience with traffic accidents. Going forward, the crash response teams will handle the investigations from start to finish.
Calling driving “one of the most dangerous things that our officers do,” Chief Charlie Beck said the new rules were a much-needed change. “It’s not just about money, although money is important. It is about officer safety and the safety of the public,” he said. LA Times, 14 Mar 2012.
One deadly accident occurred after a police officer traveling at excessive speeds on city streets without using his sirens or lights broadsided another car, killing the 25-year-old driver of the second car. The family of the victim received $5 million from the city in a settlement.
Officials hope the changes in policy will increase public safety and officer safety by allowing investigators to quickly determine causes for crashes, implement changes to driving protocols, and prevent further lawsuits against the department. For more details of the policy changes, please read the full article on the LA Times website.