The Los Angeles Police Department always has dozens of cars patrolling the streets or responding to emergencies. Unfortunately, they have been the cause of almost as many accidents as they have responded to.
The LAPD were involved in 1,250 car accidents in the past three years – about one a day – despite the special training that they receive in how to drive safely.
The majority of the accidents were minor, but some of them caused life-threatening injuries or death to other parties. At least two other drivers were killed as a result of police officers driving recklessly.
These traffic accidents have cost the city about $24 million in 400 different lawsuits. In most of these lawsuits, the city settled out of court, which indicates that the police officers were at fault.
The president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Richard Drooyan, said, “It is a top priority for us to get a comprehensive risk management plan in place, and addressing traffic accidents has to be a big part of that. We need to look at what kind of training, supervision and policies could be implemented to prevent these accidents.”
In one instance from 2009, a 25-year-old woman died after a police cruiser crashed into her car. The police cruiser was going about 80 miles an hour and did not have its sirens on. Another trial is set for next month, in which a police officer crashed into a car backing out of the driveway. The driver, a 27-year-old woman, died. Her husband and son allege that the cruiser did not have its lights or siren on.
These incidents have encouraged LAPD officials to rethink the policies that currently are in place concerning these types of accidents. Right now, these accidents are treated as misconduct inquiries, but authorities are considering whether they should be treated more like officer-involved shootings, which would allow investigators to do a complete examination of the case before letting a commission decide who was at fault.
Up until this point, most officers involved in traffic accidents or violations of conduct on the road were faulted for inattention, but the number of traffic incidents every year was overwhelming investigators. In late 2008, they switched to a point system like the DMV uses.
In this system, an officer is assigned a different amount of points depending on the seriousness of the crash. Any officer who accrues more than three points over a two year period must undergo driver retraining. If an officer acquires five points over three years, then they lose their right to drive.
An official spokesperson for the police department said that they are hopeful that the point system will help lead to more careful driving and eventually lead to less car accidents. According to statistics from figures between 2009 and 2011, the system has helped to reduce the amount of crashes.
However, the system has not yet reduced the number of lawsuits being filed against the department. Another 205 traffic-related lawsuits were filed against the department within the last three years, about half of the total lawsuits filed against the LAPD.
Officials say they will continue to provide extensive driver training for their officers and work to reduce the amount of traffic-related accidents that their officers are involved in.
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