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dealing with on-duty crash aftermath...


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  • dealing with on-duty crash aftermath...

    edit: you can ignore this whole thing, it's basically a rant and it made me feel better to write it -- those who've dealt with major on duty crashes might understand what I'm talking about...

    While responding code-3 to a violent crime in progress -- in the middle of the night -- my partner crashed his patrol car and it caught on fire. When I entered the area, I didn't see the crash until the last second. I was able to avoid hitting his vehicle head-on and came to a stop nearby but in the process I scraped the side of my car against the side of his. He was seriously injured and I pulled him out of the burning car where he received medical treatment and is expected to make a full recovery. The car literally exploded about a minute later.

    Fast forward a few months.

    Our highway patrol (who do all law enforcement TC investigations) found that my partner was driving too fast for conditions (legally exempt because he was going code 3). It also showed he was outside policy. Because I wasn't able to stop in time, my department also decided that I had been driving too fast.

    The department found that the collision was "avoidable" by department policy. It also found that I could have avoided my part of the collision had I been driving slower.

    I signed the paper saying I agree with the department's findings. I know the crash could have been avoided if I had been driving slower -- but that seems like such a broad statement. I still don't believe I was driving too fast for conditions (and CHP never investigated my involvement in the crash because they considered my partner's wrecked car to be an unavoidable obstacle in the roadway), but theoretically, if I had been driving 10 MPH, I'm sure I could have avoided anything!

    The department gave us both negative letters in our files, but otherwise there wasn't much of a punishment. There also was no recognition of my having pulled someone from a burning car. The press covered it as a couple of cops driving recklessly and getting into a wreck. Local police departments make comments about how sheriff's deputies are always driving too fast (don't get me started on how the furthest distance for them to drive is 2.5 miles in any direction). People in my own department are making comments about how this was a typical rookie mistake -- getting too excited and driving too fast to a hot call.

    My issue is -- nobody else was there. I saw it happen. I know what happened. I dealt with the fear and panic and did what I had to do to save a friend who was seconds from dying. I couldn't sleep for a week and the nightmares slowed and stopped weeks later. I also scraped up the side of my brand new patrol car...

    Why are people so quick to judge negatively and why does it seem like nobody gives a crap about someone almost dying? I never got any kind of "good job" from anyone above my own shift sergeant. The patrol lieutenant suggested that things could have been much worse if I wasn't there -- so that's almost a kudos...

    This sounds arrogant or whiny -- sorry. This is the only place I could think of where I might be able to get some outside opinions from people uninvolved in local politics.

    Any other stories of departments / communities totally screwing the guy who risked their life to save someone else? This blows -- and seriously brought down my respect for a lot of other officers I had previously thought very highly of. Up to this point in my career, I had full faith in my administration and this department. Now I'm starting to get a taste of that angry, jaded feeling I've heard so much about.

    This sucks.
    "What did he do? He sat there and took it... like a champ."

  • #2
    You have every right to be disgruntled about the way you are being treated by your admin, as well as being p****d about the talk by the local police and the media. Too often a cop does something good, but all anyone ever looks at is that one "bad" thing that happened during the incident or they bring up a complaint or suspension in the officer's personnel file that happened years ago. I am just a patrolman so my opinion probably doesn't count for much, but I think you did an excellent job and if you wouldn't have done what you did, your partner wouldn't be around.


    • #3
      I have been involved in a few fleet acc myself and understand your angst. From your post comments, its obvious you are supported in your actions, post accident, from your shift, sgt and maybe even the Lt.

      Fleet acc require a review and finding. Unfortunately unless you were struck by another vehicle and you had right of way you will most probably be charged with an accident. It's a policy issue and you are expected to maintain safe control of your squad.

      It would be nice if you had some sort of recognition for saving your fellow employee, but I don't expect that to be forthcoming from admin considering they had to discipline the policy violation and now have to pay for a damaged vehicle to be repaired. Almost a paradoxical scenario. Our deductible is $1000.

      This isn't meant to slam or criticize you but learn from the mistake and use a little more caution while driving. As this scenario illustrates, if you can't make it to the call safely you didn't help anyone. The rescuer now ends up being rescued and more resources are expended.

      Just my .02, If you and your buddy survived this and still remain employed it was a good day. The emotionalpain will probably fade and wisdom will hopefully be gained. Don't kick youself. Review and ask yourself what could you have done better to have avoided this and move on.

      Glad your both okay.


      • #4
        If recognition is what you need, you should been a firefighter my friend. From your description yeah, I could see you getting hosed. It is clear you were beyond the safety envelope in your speed and could have very easily killed both you and your buddy. It seems "no recognition" and a letter is a small price to pay. Up her it would have been days off for sure.

        Write it off as a cheap lesson and stand back up and be gallant. It'll all come out it the wash.
        The All New
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        • #5
          Hello Bsar,

          first of all - you did a good job, you rescued the life of a fellow officer. Well done.

          If you ask about the accident...well, i was not there. Regarding to your description, you were so fast that you were not able to stop in the field of your view. Decide by yourself if that was the appropriate speed, or not.

          Anyway, forget about the media and the armchair generals of your departement. The farther away from the street they are, the more competent they feel to criticise. I think it would be a sign of good leadership to officially honor your act of saving a life, improve public relations, and to forget about the *** cars.

          By the way, our administration published a recent research about car accidents on duty. The unexpected result was, that the majority of officer-caused accidents occured NOT with rookies at the wheel, but with officers with 10-15 years of service. Now i wait for my next to come...

          So take it easy. I had some nice crashes too, but i´d better not tell about now

          To follow the words of the previous poster: Glad you´re both ok.

          - Andy


          • #6
            Many years ago, a wise old Sgt told me, "Sooner or later, you're gonna wreck a patrol car". He was right, I did. Did some sheet metal work on a couple of motorcycles too. I'm glad both you and your fellow Officer are OK. Know you've heard it before, but cars can be replaced/repaired. Sometimes administrators, especially those who have aquired amnesia, place policy above reality, and real time tactical needs. They seem to place a greater value on equipment too. While the reaction from the "media" is to be expected, I'm a little disappointed at the comments from some of the city folks. I'm a retired state officer so try to bear with me here. I never liked investigating another department's accidents. Just something we have to do at times. Try to keep in mind a couple of things. CHP doesn't make your department's policy. So the decision of whether or not you were within policy had to come from your agency. The second thing is the CHP Officer isn't infallible. He is mandated to investigate the accident within the parameters of the CVC. All he can do is report his findings. To conclude, your actions in pulling your fellow Officer from a burning vehicle, are nothing short of heroic. Don't expect the media to see that. They're generally not intelligent enough to do that. I do understand your feelings concerning your command staff, and I don't blame you at all for ranting. Take away as many positive lessons as you can from the situation, and keep on doing the job. Good luck.


            • #7
              bsar170, I'll tell you what I tell all the officer/deputies whose accidents I have to investigate: Accident happen. If you start having them more often, I would say you need to look at your driving habits, but I would suspect this incident will make you a little more cautious.

              As for the other issue, saving your friend's life, it sounds like it was overshadowed by the whole accident situation. Those things have a way of being paid back to you in other ways at a later time.

              Could be worse: the department I started at 20 years ago? If you wrecked a car there and it was your fault, you had to pay for the damages out of pocket. The city only carried liability insurance on the cars. I had to shell out about $250 myself for fiberglass repair. There was an officer there who had run into a ditch and did some pretty heavy damage to a car that was due to be taken off the line about six months later. They fixed the bare minimum to keep the car running, and it still cost about $2000. She was still paying that one off at $100 a paycheck when I left there a few months later.


              • #8
                You didn't say how your buddy crashed?

                You can't help folk if you don't get there. Your buddy is code 3, but that doesn't mean you throw caution to the wind .... you still have to drive defensively, be aware that things pop up, not everyone between here and there know your coming code 3. Phone poles do not step aside. You could just as easily have struck a private car as your buddies car.

                You don't drive 10 tenths on a call, you always allow a little extra room for unanticipated things. Your buddy found out the hard way, you almost did too.

                If you want kudos, your in the wrong line of work. You are expected to avoid avoidable crashes.

                You helped your buddy, you both got out of it, let it go and retain the lesson. Don't dwell on what "atta-boys" you didn't get or the department's telling you you could have done better (reading your post leads me to believe there was room for improvement as well). Do an honest review to yourself, ask if you could have been more safe in your response and still get the job done.

                Try to take the negatives you are feeling and make a positive out of it all. Look at it this way .... neither one of you made the violent crime in progress call, someone else had to, plus respond to y'all's deal. Yeah, could have been much worse.

                Glad you're both okay.
                "That's right man, we've got mills here that'll blow that heap of your's right off the road."

                "Beautiful Daughter of the Stars."(it's my home now)

                >>>>> A Time for Choosing <<<<<

                Retired @ 31yr 2mo as of 0000 hrs. 01-01-10. Yeah, all in all, it was good.


                • #9
                  To begin with I want to commend you for your heroic actions in saving a partner officer. You performed with honor and it should have been recognized by your agency or by your supervisor, at the very least!

                  Now, to address some of what you mentioned.

                  Our highway patrol (who do all law enforcement TC investigations) found that my partner was driving too fast for conditions (legally exempt because he was going code 3). Not necessarily so! If he was driving code 3, he still has the duty and responsibility to drive in a manner and at such a speed as he is reasonably capable of maintaining control of the vehicle with due regard for his surroundings:

                  Effect of Exemption

                  21807. The provisions of Section 21806 shall not operate to relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons and property.

                  It also showed he was outside policy. Because I wasn't able to stop in time, my department also decided that I had been driving too fast.

                  Under most Occupational Safety programs within the law enforcement community, the only way you will not be found to be "at fault" is when there was absolutely no way the incident could be avoided. You are expected to be alert to all possible scenarios when operating on duty. As sad fact, but, never-the-less, a fact!

                  The department found that the collision was "avoidable" by department policy. It also found that I could have avoided my part of the collision had I been driving slower.

                  As a former OccSafe supervisor and coordinator, as well as an EVOC instructor, I must agree with your agency findings. Your involvement was "Preventable" with respect to the incident. Again, it is your responsibility to drive will all due regard and caution - even though under emergency conditions.

                  I signed the paper saying I agree with the department's findings. I know the crash could have been avoided if I had been driving slower -- but that seems like such a broad statement. I still don't believe I was driving too fast for conditions (and CHP never investigated my involvement in the crash because they considered my partner's wrecked car to be an unavoidable obstacle in the roadway), but theoretically, if I had been driving 10 MPH, I'm sure I could have avoided anything!

                  The CHP does not have to investigate your involvement for your department to find your part "preventable" and "avoidable" because that is part of the internal procedure of your agency.
                  A negative written disciplinary action is to make you a better officer it is not a punishment. Time off without pay would be a punishment; or, termination. It appears your agency is confident that you and your partner are going to learn a great lesson from this incident and have chosen the lessor of all punitive actions to document your actions. Accidents will happen in law enforcement. Don't let this be a negative. Look at it with the positive. You are both fine and fit. You have a long career to look forward to and you have the inner satisfaction that you performed in a commendable manner.

                  Good luck to you and your partner.
                  Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence!

                  [George Washington (1732 - 1799)]


                  • #10
                    You can also tell them that you realize that the crash was 100% preventable by you. If you had called in sick, you would not have been involved. If your coworker had also called in sick, the whole thing wouldn't have happened. They can and will always find someone to blame, you can only do your best and let the Monday morning quarterbacks sit around the table and write up counseling slips.

                    If you take 2 weeks off a year, you drive 2,000 hrs a year. If you spend 40,000 hrs in a car over 20 yrs, accidents will happen.
                    Work harder! Millions on welfare depend on you...


                    • #11
                      As someone who is responsible for more than a few wrecked fleet vehicles, I feel your pain brother. My internal answer to each and every time someone tried to hang me for the damage was "but, I got the bad guy!!" or "but, I saved those people!!". After some time to think things over, every time, I came to realize I could have done things differently to achieve the same result without the damage. Live and learn, might be the first accident but won't be the last. If you can look at yourself in the mirror knowing that you performed to the best of your ability given the circumstances, then it doesn't matter what others think or say. A letter of reprimand with no days off is A-ok in my book
                      "You don't want the truth because, deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall... I have neither the time, nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it."


                      • #12
                        Ok bad news first. You and your partner screwed the pooch and wrecked out. Glad you're both gonna be ok. The letter thing is just that, a thing. Most cities, towns, couties, ect... have a "group type insurance" these companies need to have some type of closure for paying out on damages. You end up with a very mild letter of censure for not maintaining control of you unit. In my agency if this happens and you can survive 6 months of driving without another wreck then you can request that the letter be removed from you file. If thats the case then no big deal right?

                        As far as recognition or lack of for your actions post accident where you pulled your partner from his wreck. While it's nice to have the boss tell you good job, the respect of your squad is what counts in the end. Your actions have shown that you can be depended on when it all goes to S##t.

                        Timmy's .02 cents, learn form the mistakes you made that night and don't do 'em again. If you get some day's on the beech then get a tan and remember what you're feeling when you are wearing the rank and one of your guys does the samething. Be safe.


                        • #13
                          I appreciate all the input -- it's what I was looking for.

                          SgtCHP, I left that out but the cause of the crash was undetermined. There was another vehicle involved that left the scene. The vehicle was seen by a few people but not enough and not a good enough description to put it at the scene. It's my opinion -- and opinion only -- that the other vehicle caused my partner to crash.

                          It's pure conjecture on my part, based solely on the area, the time of night, and the fact that the vehicle left the scene that the driver was likely a DUI driver. Doesn't change the circumstances of the crash much, though...

                          I know this is just a speed bump in a career I hope to make into a good one. Thanks again for the input, suggestions and encouragement.
                          "What did he do? He sat there and took it... like a champ."


                          • #14
                            Our guy uses a walker and has little to no short term memory. 4 years as a cop and retired due to injury. Sucks ***. Stupid accident that was a freak. Girl turned right in front of him at 50 m.p.h.
                            Being a good street cop is like coming to work in a wet suit and peeing in your pants. It's a nice warm feeling, but you're the only one who knows anything has happened.


                            • #15
                              First and most importantly...the two of you survived. What a horrific situation to be apart of.

                              Secondly, hindsight is always 20/20. Your dept will always scruntinize your actions. A letter of discussion in your file or a commendation is just that...a piece of paper. Who cares?? You know what you did and your beat partner knows you saved his life. That's all that matters!!!

                              If you had to do it again...you would.

                              Upper management sometimes lose their ability to understand how things work at the grunt level. Looks good on paper but won't work in reality mode.

                              I'm surprised since he was outside policy...he didn't get a paystep reduction or beach time.

                              Bottom line is everyone went home alive.
                              Last edited by deputy x 2; 09-17-2008, 01:01 PM.
                              This profession is not for people looking for positive reinforcement from the public. Very often it can be a thankless job and you can't desire accolades, because those are not usually forthcoming. Just do your job to the best of your ability and live with the decisions you've made.


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