Monday, November 17, 2008

Deputy Causes Crash

Last week I wrote an article and titled it, Cop Causes Crash. You can read it below, but basically a young police officer got into an accident while enroute to a call. It was his fault, so he wrote himself a ticket.

This week let's take a look at how a local accident got handled last summer, when a deputy caused a crash. What was the outcome in McHenry County?

Back on July 13, 2008, there was quite a party in the Richmond area - Rodeo Days, or something to that effect. I'll be checking into it. The McHenry County deputies may have watched the day-long sale of alcohol by a person NOT holding a liquor license, and in the evening they were having a field day stopping drivers who were leaving at the party.

Several deputies had violators stopped on the shoulder of U.S. 12 near Macwood Drive in Richmond Township. One deputy was waiting on the shoulder to make a U-turn and transport a prisoner to the jail, but he didn't wait quite long enough for a vehicle to pass. Before it was past him, he pulled out and broadsided the vehicle as it passed him.

The first thing that is strange about this accident is that it was investigated by the sheriff's department. It is a common practice to call in another department to investigate such an accident. Doing this introduces objectivity and reduces the possibility that whitewashing the facts will occur.

What happened in this case? This accident was investigated by one of its own; i.e., a deputy investigated the accident involving another on-duty deputy.

Sometime after that, the woman driver of the car hit by the deputy received a letter from the County's self-insurance claims administrator, demanding payment for the damage to the patrol car. The letter reported that "evidence" in their files indicated that the woman was at fault in the accident.

This was not just a minor side-swipe crash. When the deputy pulled out into the lane of moving traffic, he pulled out and hit the moving vehicle hard. In my opinion, the woman driver is lucky that her vehicle did not roll. Over $5,000 damage was caused to the right side of the woman's vehicle.

If the woman was at fault, as claimed by the County's claims department, why wasn't she ticketed? I filed a Freedom of Information Request with the sheriff's department and was surprised to learn that the fault for the accident was attributed to the deputy. The primary contributing cause of the crash? Failure of Driver 2 (the deputy) to yield right-of-way.

Here's the problem. If the Crash Report states that Driver 2 (deputy) failed to yield the right-of-way and was the primary cause of the accident (and the only cause listed), how could the County's claims department be trying to collect for the damage to the squad car from the woman driver of the other vehicle?

This is why an outside agency is asked to investigate crashes. There are countless examples of an accident investigator's giving a "pass" to a fellow officer who has caused a crash. I know of at least four local, McHenry County examples and have heard of more.

Ask yourself this. If a deputy causes a crash and damages your car, do you think the County ought to pay you for the damage?

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