Last night’s tragic death of yet another law enforcement officer from a traffic collision is the 3rd in the last week and highlights a troubling epidemic that has been occurring for well over a decade.
North Carolina Deputy Dwayne Hester died in a collision Friday night while responding to a call.
These tragedies bring up questions as to whether law enforcement is doing enough to prevent them. Travis Yates was named the 2008 Law Officer Instructor of the Year and has been instrumental in the Below 100 Initiative, which aims through a series of training events to reduce line of duty deaths to below 100 each year states there is no doubt that more must be done.
“Absolutely our profession must address these tragedies that in many instances do not have to occur” Yates exclaimed.
While he acknowledges that some roadway related deaths will occur despite proper actions by the officer and adequate training, Yates says we are “fooling ourselves” if we think there is nothing we can do.
“I look at the way our officers are dying and it makes me sick in the pit of my stomach. We have officers striking other officers in cars, officers not wearing seat belts and speeds so fast that we are running off the road and killing ourselves. This does not have to happen and it’s just crazy that we continue each year and watch it happen with very little regard.”
Yates cites the Below 100 Initiative and the Officer Down Memorial Page as two organizations that are doing a lot to prevent these tragedies but he questions the motives of departments that don’t train in the area of roadway safety and police organizations that simply turn their head.
“If law enforcement knew of the arrogant attitude I see out there amongst our own….among those that claim to support law enforcement yet do nothing to prevent this tragedy they would be angry.”
When asked why there isn’t an outcry over senseless deaths, Yates doesn’t know the answer.
“I can’t tell you why. I can’t tell you why there are organizations that beg for money to honor officers yet those same organizations could care less about the prevention of those deaths. Yes we should honor but what good are we doing if we don’t prevent.”
Dale Stockton, Editor of Law Officer Magazine and developer of Below 100, states “I truly believe in honoring the fallen, but we must empower the living to do their jobs as safely as possible. We all have a responsibility to improve officer safety—both individually and across the profession.”
Yates is clearly burdened by what he is seeing. “I’m tired and I know my words may seem harsh but enough is enough. I realize there will be backlash by what I’m saying. Our profession is programmed to not speak about someone that has given the ultimate sacrifice or analyze what occurred but I don’t understand that. It doesn’t take away from that sacrifice. These men and women are true American Heroes but do we really want to accept tragedy when it doesn’t have to occur? Do we really want to leave children without a parent and a spouse alone because we are too prideful to discuss these issues?”
The death of North Carolina Deputy Hester is the 19th this year due to vehicle collisions. In the last 30 years, 19% of officer vehicle fatalities have involved an ejection and studies reveal that up to 50% of the officers that die in a vehicle were not wearing a seatbelt. Since 1997, roadway related incidents have led line of duty deaths every year with the exception of 2011.
A New York State Trooper was killed in a one-vehicle collision Saturday night. It marks the 16th Roadway related death to law enforcement in 2012 and the second single vehicle death in the last week.
Deputy Sheriff Brian Hayden became the third officer killed in 10 months while driving and being struck by another officer.
He was killed when his patrol truck collided with another patrol car from on US Highway 70 as the two responded to a shots fired call involving a third officer.
He and an officer from the Choctaw National Tribal Police were responding to the call at approximately 9:30 pm. As the two vehicles neared an intersection Deputy Hayden began to turn left when his truck was struck by the patrol car, which was traveling behind him. Deputy Hayden’s suffered fatal injuries and died at the scene. The tribal police officer suffered severe injuries and was flown to a hospital in Texas.
Deputy Hayden is survived by his wife and four children.
Two vehicles in front of him pulled to the side, however a third vehicle attempted to make a left turn in front of him, causing him to swerve. His vehicle left the roadway and struck the pole head-on, causing the pole to break in half and fall on the patrol car. He was extricated from the vehicle and transported to Rhode Island Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Sergeant Dorley had served with the Providence Police Department for 16 years and was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant. He is survived by his wife and two children.
For the first time in history, Butts County Sheriff’s Department loses a deputy in the line duty. Deputy Ronnie Smith was killed when his car wrecked Saturday night, according to Sheriff Gene Pope.
Deputy Sheriff Ronnie Smith was killed in an automobile accident while responding to a fight call at approximately 10:30 pm.
His patrol car left the roadway and struck several trees at the intersection of Biles Road and Four Points Road, causing him to suffer fatal injuries.
Deputy Smith had served with the Butts County Sheriff’s Office for four years. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Chief of Police Jerry Hicks succumbed to injuries sustained six days earlier when his patrol car collided with a tree at the intersection of Route 8 and Railroad Road, in Washington County, at about 6:30 am.
He was driving to the Potosi Correctional Center to pickup an inmate work crew when the vehicle slid on a patch of ice on a highway bridge, causing it to leave the roadway. The vehicle collided with the tree on the passenger side.
Chief Hicks was flown to a hospital in Creve Couer, where he remained unconscious until succumbing to severe head injuries. The Missouri Highway Patrol announced that the chief was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision.
Chief Hicks was a U.S. Navy veteran and had served with the Leadwood Police Department for 25 years. He is survived by his two adult children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Detective Shane Wilson was killed when his vehicle was struck head-on by a drunk driver on I-20 in DeKalb County.
He was off duty, but on call as part of his department’s SWAT team, when he was contacted by dispatchers and directed to respond to a home invasion call in Doraville. The collision occurred as he drove to the crime scene. He succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the crash.
Detective Wilson had served with the Doraville Police Department for four years. He is survived by his wife, 8-year-old-son, and parents.
Officer James Capoot was shot and killed while pursuing bank-robbery suspects after a high-speed chase. Officer Capoot pursued the suspect vehicle through a residential area, where Officer Capoot executed a PIT maneuver and disabled the suspect vehicle. Officer Capoot pursued the suspect on foot and was shot several times in the back yard of a residence.
Officer Capoot was transported to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, where he succumbed to his wounds.
Officer Capoot was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, and served with the California Highway Patrol before joining the Vallejo Police Department.
One suspect was arrested near the scene. Several neighboring agencies are participating in the search for a possible second suspect.
Officer Capoot is survived by his wife and three daughters.
Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:
Chief of Police Robert Nichelini
Vallejo Police Department
111 Amador Street
Vallejo, CA 94590
People who witnessed the crash that killed an Albany police officer Friday say the chase through their neighborhood was too dangerous and should have been called off.
But Albany Police pursuit policy says that pursuing a dangerous felony suspect, including armed robbery, that presents an immediate danger to the community, is justified.
The results of an autopsy performed today on 36-year old Officer Terry Lewis-Flemming are not available yet.
She died in a fiery crash after another officer pulled into her path as they chased two robbery suspects.
Those men, 22-year old Kentrell Butler and 22-year-old Wesley Wilkerson, remain in jail charged with murder and armed robbery.
Almost everyone we talked to in East Albany agreed that the death of Officer Terry Lewis Flemming was an un-necessary tragedy. Most of the people who saw the Police response said in their opinion it was just too dangerous.
Early Monday morning the Georgia State Patrol Special Collision Reconstruction Team was back at East Residence Avenue and Blaylock Street, where the fatal police crash happened Friday afternoon. A small cross and a picture of Officer Lewis Flemming in her wedding dress are displayed at the tree her car hit.