LAPD adopts new way to investigate officer-involved crashes
Acknowledging major problems with the quality of its investigations into serious traffic collisions involving officers, the Los Angeles Police Department on Tuesday announced new rules intended to improve the thoroughness and credibility of the inquiries.
The move follows a pair of Los Angeles Times articles in January that examined the human and financial toll of officer-involved accidents. The Times found that police caused about 1,250 crashes over the last three years — an average of about one a day. Most were minor, but some resulted in life-threatening injuries or were the result of the officer violating traffic laws, according to LAPD records. In at least two incidents, the driver of another car was killed.
Under the terms of the revamped policy, any time an officer is involved in a traffic accident in which someone is killed or injured badly enough to require hospitalization, a team of detectives and officers trained in crash reconstruction will go to the scene immediately.
The team will preserve skid marks and other physical evidence needed to reconstruct the crash and will interview witnesses and compel the officers involved to give their account of what happened, Cmdr. Michael Williams told the Los Angeles Police Commission at the oversight board's weekly meeting.
Until now, LAPD officers involved in crashes had not been required to speak with investigators, while witness interviews were conducted by regular officers who failed to ask pertinent questions, Williams said. Also, crucial physical evidence was often compromised because accident scenes were not secured, he said.
Photo: Officers at the scene of one of the hundreds of LAPD-involved crashes last year. Credit: Allen J. Schaben Los Angeles Times