By common definition, the police force is set in place to uphold the law. Whether it involves a robbery, assault, or anything illegal behavior, their job is to apprehend and/or cite those responsible for the infraction. In the State of Texas, however, it seems that police vehicle crashes are increasingly common.
According to a report by NBC 5, many of the Texas police departments are not practicing the advice they preach, or following the department policy regarding communications device use. Police officers patrol while operating computers, radio equipment, cell phones, and other various distractions as part of their daily routine. With the advantages in technology within the past decade, these tools allow for them to effectively do their job.
The station’s report found that state accident reports revealed that at least 70 crashes in just 24 months where a distraction inside an “emergency vehicle” contributed to the wreck – an average of nearly three crashes per month.
Here is one incident that exhibits these kinds of situations:
- “In May 2010, a vehicle driven by an Austin police officer ran a stop sign and struck Louis Olivier on his motorcycle. The officer admitted he was using a dashboard computer when he rolled through the stop sign.”
Kevin Narvarro, a lead driving instructor at the Dallas Police Department, as well as a leader of ALERT International, a national organization of police trainers, claims that officers have more to deal with inside their vehicles than in the past.
Narvarro also added the he felt officers forget the dangers because they have become so used to juggling all of these communication necessities.
“We get very complacent,” Navarro said. “We know it’s dangerous, but when we do it several times, over and over again, and it comes out positive, we think we’re good at it, and we’re really not.”
NBC 5 also investigated an uncovered video from a crash this past February shows a Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office deputy running a red light, and injuring a woman in a sport utility vehicle, while he was reading a message on his computer.
Despite commenting on the matter, the department has one of the toughest policies on distracted driving in the entire area.“Other than one-button responses to indicate an employee is en route to, has arrived at, or is clearing a scene, typing messages on the MCT (Mobile Computer Terminals) while the vehicle is being operated is prohibited,” the policy states.
“If they don’t follow the policy, they’re dealt with,” Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said. “And it also gives us protection against liability issues because we do have a policy that says don’t do these sort of things.”
Though these communication tools are necessary for the police force to effectively carry out their jobs, are they worth the risk of an accident? Surely changes in policy and/or raised officer awareness can help to facilitate the end of this issue.