Friday, September 11, 2009

Update on the police accident

At the Police Commission meeting Thursday night, Chief Snyder gave some details about the July police collision that wounded two officers and killed a third. The accident report has been finalized, so the Chief was able to share some details that would have only been opinion prior.

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Officer Judge was proceeding northbound on North Putt Corners Lane, emergency lights on, responding to a call. Officer Knoth was responding to the same call, and was driving behind Officer Judge's vehicle in the same direction, without his emergency lights on. The distance between the two vehicles was not mentioned by the Chief, but my sense is that Officer Judge may have been aware that there was a vehicle behind his own.

Dispatch called Officer Judge off the original call to respond to a residential alarm, and he slowed to turn around by making a left turn into Erman Lane. Officer Knoth, aware that his fellow officer would be turning around to respond to a different call, assumed that Officer Judge would simply pull off to the right and thereafter make a U-turn. However, Officer Judge, unaware that the vehicle behind his was Officer Knoth's police cruiser, elected to make the left turn instead. Officer Knoth collided with Officer Judge essentially because he expected his fellow officer to zig, when in fact he zagged.

The Chief said that speed was a contributing factor, and that the emergency lights should have been operating on Officer Knoth's vehicle. I asked about the use of turn signals by police, but he declined to go into that much detail about the accident. I suspect that police officers in emergency conditions do not generally use turn signals, and have observed them declining to do so under non-emergency conditions a number of times. I don't know if using a signal would have prevented this accident, since I imagine that they aren't as easy to see with emergency lights on, but I hope the Department elects to require its officers to do so consistently in the future. Even for police officers, being aware of what other drivers plan on doing can prevent terrible accidents like this, and if using a signal increases accident avoidance by even .000005%, I think it would be well worth it.

May the injured officers recover and the deceased officer rest well after more than six years of service.

1 comment:

Pete Healey said...

Thanks for the info. and the questioning of the chief about this incident. In addition to the failure to signal, it seems to me that the trailing vehicle may have been following too close and driving too damn fast, and without his emergency lights on. There are lots of moving violations here, and we need to demand more from guys(and women) who make their living mostly by driving.