As police cars add more tech, worries about distracted driving grow

November 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Police officers are expected to enforce distracted driving laws — but how often are officers distracted?

Incident reports from across Minnesota show dozens of crashes in the last four years involving police officers distracted behind the wheel. While those numbers are small compared to the 17,000-plus distracted driving crashes each year in Minnesota, there’s growing concern the technology packed into squad cars is creating its own hazard.

“Every gadget that we’re stuffing in the car puts demands on the human being that human beings can’t do,” said Bryan Vila, a former Los Angeles County deputy who’s now a professor at Washington State University in Spokane working on a first-of-its-kind national study on distracted police officers.

After examining hundreds of crash reports since 2010 and reviewing several hours of police squad car videos, MPR News and KARE 11 found 61 crashes in four years where crash investigators said distracted driving by the officer was a factor. More than half the time, the officer was distracted by something inside the squad car, such as a cell phone or computer.

Outside distractions — officers taking their eyes off the road to do their job, identifying a driver not wearing a seatbelt or looking at a suspect vehicle — were noted in many other crashes.

The average police officer drives thousands of miles more than the average driver and the number of crashes involving distracted police officers is still relatively low. Still, cops acknowledge the tech wedged into the front seat is making safety harder. Imagine juggling radios, phones, squad computers that give officers important information and fast communication with dispatchers, all while trying to patrol the streets, looking out for suspicious activity or someone who needs help.

The modern police vehicle is a “mobile office,” said Brooklyn Park Deputy Police Chief Mark Bruley.

His officers are trained to not take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds at a time. His department has also moved up the squad computer’s position in the front console of police vehicles and set it closer to eye level to help officers keep their eyes up and on the road.

Brooklyn Park also requires officers to go through defensive driving training where officers are tested on their ability to deal with distractions and when two officers are in the squad car together, one drives while the other operates the technology. The department, however, doesn’t ban officers from using cell phones or computers while driving.


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LAPD Cars to Track How Cops Drive

November 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Ford’s fleet telematics partner, California-based Telogis, is introducing a police version of its Crew Chief tracking system that lets businesses see where and how their vehicles are being driven in real time. According to Wired, 50 police cruisers have been equipped with the new “Law Enforcement Edition” hardware that actively transmits OBD data—such as throttle and brake position, speed, yaw, traction-control status, and more—to the station. The number-one goal, says Telogis, is to reduce police-related traffic fatalities. Last year, nearly 44 percent of the 105 officer deaths nationwide were caused by car accidents, many of which involved officers not wearing their seatbelts. The other benefits to tracking nearly every detail of an officer’s drive—accountability to the taxpaying citizenry, cutting maintenance and fuel costs—are there, too.

RELATED: 2015 Ford Transit Prisoner Transport Vehicle: Designed for Discomfort

Most police departments use some form of GPS tracking and dashboard video cameras for dispatching and evidence during traffic stops. But the Telogis system can tell if an officer is accelerating hard or if the engine needs an oil change. It can record maximum speed, whether the sirens and lights are activated, and, of course, how often an officer wears his or her seatbelt. Software then creates driver profiles of every officer so identifying problematic drivers is a smartphone app away. The system will be available on Ford’s Interceptor vehicles starting early next year.

The tech may be a boon to police watchdogs like Ron Carr, who regularly films speeding cruisers on North Carolina highways with a specially outfitted Honda Odyssey (really), but the system’s undisclosed price and potential backlash from officers in the field—who already are under close scrutiny—may see departments adopt it slowly, if at all.


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Honor The Fallen by Training the Living

November 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Today begins the ILEETA 2014 Conference in Lombard, Ill. ILEETA — the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association — is an amazing organization comprised of the best police trainers in the world, and this annual event draws all those amazing people into one place.

One of the countless people I look forward to seeing every year at ILEETA is my friend and PoliceOne colleague Travis Yates, who writes our police driving column. Regular readers of this space know that I’ve written about some of Travis’ efforts to help victims of natural disasters, and help outfit police officers with body armor. These “side projects” are in addition to his work as a full-time officer and trainer.

This year is a fairly special one for Travis — he is entering his tenth year as a PoliceOne columnist, and he’s founded a training company focused on increasing officer safety behind the wheel — so as the ILEETA 2014 conference got underway, he reflected on his 10-year milestone, and talked of his new training company.


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5 Things To Improve Squad Car Safety

November 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a firefighter, your work vehicle has been especially designed for the work that you do. The same is true for paramedic trucks, military vehicles, shipping companies and just about every other profession out there. Police officers are the exception to that rule.

A standard police vehicle with a ‘police package’ has a more durable suspension and brakes than versions of those cars at the car dealership selling those models. Further, lots of police-specific equipment is added.

A typical agency can — and will — add just about any aftermarket equipment available from hundreds of different manufacturers. The vehicle tests — including crash data — were all done without this added equipment, and thus don’t truly reflect the patrol vehicle’s safety as it actually exists out there on the road. We need to remedy this.

Hard Truths
Other than Ford, Chevy, or Dodge, it is safe to say that the final product that two different departments place on the street will never be the exact same. Carbon Motors attempted to manufacture a car just for law enforcement — and had they been successful, many of our concerns may have been solved — but ultimately the high cost of production and department budgets left a good idea on paper.

Economics indeed is a priority and it will always be cheaper to take an existing civilian car, add a few features and sell to law enforcement. I’m confident none of this will change,so it’s time our profession adjusts our behavior so we are placing the safest vehicle we can in the hands of our heroes.

We all have a similar story: My friend has $30,000 of new teeth thanks to a radar device mounted with Velcro. It could have been worse and I fear it has been worse. I was contacted several years ago from the wife of an officer. Her husband had suffered a traumatic brain injury due to police equipment in a car. He could no longer work or function by himself. His wife was left with questions and unfortunately I had no answers.

Our profession has done a terrible job regarding car interior safety. We’ve suffered injuries — and likely deaths — because of this and we don’t discuss it. Maybe we don’t have the discussion because we don’t see viable alternatives but it has to start somewhere.

To begin the discussion I reached out to Lt. David “Doc” Halliday — who supervised Michigan State Police vehicle testing for more than two decades — prior to retiring recently after 36 years of service. Halliday clearly understands this as a huge issue and emphatically told me that “anytime we add anything to the car you decrease the safety of the vehicle.”

Here are six ways we can immediately make the interior of our police cars safer.

1. Limit Equipment: This will definitely not be a popular step but if we truly want a safer vehicle, the issue becomes what is absolutely necessary inside the vehicle. Even a radio microphone could potentially be unsafe but we absolutely need that inside the car. If something is inside your car and you haven’t used it in six months then get it out. We need to get back to what is necessary to do our job.

2. “What If” the Inside the Car: On a daily basis, we should look at the contents of our car and think what would happen in a collision. How will that metal ticket book feel hitting me at 60 mph? Could it cause serious injury or death at collision speeds?

If the answer is yes, we need to secure it — and do so using a hard mount when needed. Equipment no doubt will need to be placed inside police vehicles but when it does, Velcro is the enemy and mounting with hardware is a necessity.

3. If You Cannot Secure, Then Relocate Loose Items: If the item isn’t critical and timely, it should go where it can’t hurt you…in the trunk.

4. Wear a Seatbelt: Unfortunately we can’t assume this is being done in our profession. With studies suggesting that half of our officers in fatality crashes were not wearing a seatbelt, we need to also understand that the seatbelt is designed to keep you in the seat and the way to keep mounted equipment away from you in a crash is to stay in your seat. A seatbelt is the only way to ensure this.

5. Integrate Equipment: We need to work on integrating our equipment into our car versus mounting the equipment. Havis has been leading the way on this and their computer screen configurations are being tested in agencies across the country.

Cost has no doubt been an issue on why we haven’t done this sooner but it is time for costs to take a back seat to safety.

Getting the Conversation Started
The United States Military and the National Football League are two organizations that have studied the effects of Brain Trauma and it is time that law enforcement does the same. Currently, we have no idea of how many officers are affected and what caused the injury. To improve safety we have to know this information and it has to start now. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Let’s make it happen and together we can work towards a safer profession.

Courtesy:  Police One

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About the author

Major Travis Yates is a Commander with the Tulsa (OK) Police Department. His Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for SAFETAC Training and the Director of Ten-Four Ministries, dedicated to providing practical and spiritual support to the law enforcement community.

Springfield Officer Not Charged in Fatal Crash

November 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


Dashboard camera video from a police officer’s cruiser was critical in determining that the officer wouldn’t face criminal charges for his part in a fatal pedestrian crash.

Steven Rintamaki, 45, died May 25 at the scene of the crash where he ran into the side of the moving cruiser on Lagonda Avenue, according to a Ohio State Highway Patrol report on the accident.

Cruiser cam video along with the state patrol crash report, toxicology results from both Rintamaki and the officer involved and witness statements collected at the scene all went into the decision to not file any criminal charges against the officer, Clark County Prosecutor Andrew Wilson said.

The video showed that officer had no time to react, investigators said. The time from when Rintamaki was in the dark and when he ran into the cruiser is only 1 second.

“Cruiser cam video and body cams and our ability to document what happens in these cases is so important because it’s the truth … it just catches it right there,” said Wilson.

“All we have to do is hit play and it answers a lot of questions about what really did happen,” he added.

The state patrol reports said the officer was driving above the speed limit. But because the officer was on a traffic grant patrol to catch traffic violations and he was driving southbound on Lagonda Avenue pursuing a vehicle he had clocked speeding, his conduct in operation of his vehicle was reasonable, Wilson said.

Rintamaki wasn’t in a cross walk when he walked into the cruiser, crash reports state.


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Anaheim Chase Ends In Fiery Crash

November 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A police pursuit ended in a deadly, fiery crash Monday night after a van that authorities allege was involved in a homicide crashed into a freeway retaining wall in Anaheim, Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials said.

The crash, in which the driver was killed, occurred at about 9:25 p.m. near East Frontera Street and North Rio Vista Street, said Lt. John Roche of the Sheriff’s Department. Flames engulfed the vehicle shortly after it struck a wall bordering the 91 Freeway, Roche said.


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Police Chase Stolen CHP Cruiser

November 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

SAN DIEGO – Dozens of officers pursed a woman in a stolen California Highway Patrol vehicle near Mission Bay Thursday afternoon.

A CHP officer came under gunfire Thursday at 2:45 p.m. during a hit-and-run accident in the area of Clairemont Drive and De Anza Cove near Interstate 5. A woman stole the officer’s cruiser, sped off and led a pursuit through Mission Bay and Mission Valley.

Dozens of officers, including San Diego police, pursued the vehicle until coming to a stop at Friars Road and Qualcomm Way.

A short time time later, at least one officer opened fire, CHP spokeswoman Mary Bailey said. The suspect was then taken into custody.

It’s unclear if she was wounded. No other injuries have been reported.

Authorities closed traffic lanes in the area into the evening hours to allow for investigation.

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2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit Launched, Pulling You Over Soon

August 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Study the front end of this car very, very closely–because you’ll soon be watching out for it in your rearview mirror. Chrysler has released details and images of the 2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit, the latest iteration of its four-door muscle car designed for police use.

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Supreme Court sides with police over fatal Ark. pursuit

May 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has sided with police officers who were sued over a high-speed chase that ended with the deaths of the fleeing driver and his passenger.

The court was unanimous in holding that the officers who fatally shot driver Donald Rickard did not violate the violate Rickard’s constitutional rights.


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Runaway horse-and-buggy damages police car

May 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


Authorities said a runaway horse-and-buggy in Darlington damaged six cars including a police vehicle, but no one was injured Wednesday morning.


The Darlington Police Department said a buggy was tied outside a business on Galena Street at about 10:30 a.m. by 31-year-old owner Elam Allgyer of Darlington when the horse freed itself and took off with the cart.

The Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department said as the horse-and-buggy entered on to Main Street, Darlington officer Steven Messner attempted to block the buggy from continuing onto northbound Main Street.

The buggy struck the department’s 2010 Ford Explorer that Messner was driving, causing minor damage to the tail light and rear bumper, Darlington police Chief Jason King said.

Five other vehicles in the area were damaged by the buggy, according to the police department.

The buggy overturned spilling its contents of gasoline and paint in the business parking lot.

The officer and the horse were not injured, according to the report.

King said something spooked the horse and it was able to free itself.

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