Cops Need To Slow Down

Cops Need To Slow Down

Speeding Trough Intersections Will Lead To More Deaths

Department Of Public Safety Officials Remain Silent

Since October of 2014 three New Mexico police officers have been killed in single vehicle crashes.

Since February of 2013 three New Mexicans have been killed in auto accidents with police officers who were driving code (lights and siren).

Since December 2016, the Albuquerque Police Department has had six guns stolen from cars.

These incidents should be a call to action for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety secretary and for local police chiefs. Sadly, those in charge of public safety either don’t know what to do, or don’t care to address these issues. Our highly-paid leaders seem to be only good at protecting the status quo, taking taxpayer-funded trips and protecting their state pensions.

Since DPS is not addressing these problems, the New Mexico Legislature should. I know members of the Legislature read the Free Press, so let me tell them what needs to be done in the next session.

First, we need to make it crystal clear that there is no exemption from the seat belt law for law enforcement. I don’t know why some officers still believe they are exempt from this law; they are not.

Every year we have “Click it or ticket,” campaigns directed at citizens. We should extend this to police officers who get caught not wearing their seat belts. There is simply no exemption, and there is no excuse. Seat belts save lives, cops lives included.

And aren’t we sick and tired of police cars crashing when driving lights and sirens? How many millions are taxpayers expected to fork over for police officers who crash driving code?

A recently retired officer made this point, he said that Domino’s Pizza stopped their “30 minutes or free” delivery policy after their drivers crashed and Domino’s was sued. He asked how many citizens and police officers must be needlessly killed because of their driving once they turn on their lights and sirens?

Of course, Domino’s figured it out once they started getting sued. Police agencies, on the other hand, never figure it out because the money involved isn’t the chief’s or the mayor’s, it’s the citizens’. The people in charge don’t care; they want the status quo. They just keep writing checks ($8.5 million in March 2017 to the Browder family) and they never change policy. What does it take?

What would happen if we made a statutory change that allowed officers to turn on lights and sirens when going to a priority call, but prohibited them from exceeding the speed limit, passing on the right, passing in on-coming traffic lanes and required that officers come to a complete stop at all traffic lighted intersections? This would save lives, and money.

When officers drive on our streets they act like they’re on a NASCAR race track, just because they turned their lights and sirens on, a tragic accident should come as no surprise. Driving this way is like playing Russian roulette on our roads. It needs to stop.

Officers should obey all traffic laws when driving Code 3. That would allow for other drivers to see and hear them coming, therefore allowing the other drivers to merge to the right. When we stop at all intersections to make sure all traffic has stopped, it makes everyone safe. Driving this way also keeps the officer calm, for obvious reasons.

Will it delay their arrival to a call for help? Studies have shown it does not. The reason is clear. When officers drive in excess of the speed limit, they out-drive their lights and sirens. Other drivers don’t see them coming, and therefore don’t move out of their way. As my academy instructors from 1983 used to tell us, “You can’t help anyone if you don’t arrive.” In light of three fatal accidents involving local law enforcement, it’s time to change.

Lastly, I am sick and tired of hearing news reports of police officers getting their guns stolen from their police cars/personal cars. There is simply no reason for this and it puts the entire community in danger.

It should be a state-wide DPS policy that all police guns are to be removed from police vehicles/private vehicles when they are not parked in a garage or a secure facility. Why hasn’t this been done? How many cop guns do we want on our streets in the hands of criminals?

Not another police officer should die because they were speeding. Not another officer should die because they weren’t wearing their seat belt. Not another child should die because an officer didn’t stop at an intersection. Not another police firearm needs to be stolen and on our streets.

If you care about our police and our safety, change the laws and demand better policies.

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Dan Klein

Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him via Facebook and Twitter via @dankleinabq.

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