Saturday, August 09, 2008

Baby Hitting and Stalled-Car Smashing

Where were the Boston police department and union officials during responsibility lessons? It looks like they didn't take, much less pass, them.

In what could well be a short-term incident of physical pain for a baby and anguish for the mom, another city cop seems to have put on an artificial halo. The undisputed aspect is that a cop drove a patrol car around the corner, hitting a stroller while not yielding to mom and kid in a marked crosswalk.

I know Seaverns and Centre in JP. There is no traffic light. By our laws Chapter 89, Section 11, the mom and baby had the right of way. There is no excuse for any driver not to stop as the law requires. Civilian or cop, not coming to a complete stop for the pedestrians violates state law. That's a presumption of guilt and needs to bring a fine and points on the license. It was not would-have-nice-to-do; it's state law.

In the case of an officer, that should also trigger a training session and notation in the personnel file, more if there are other violations.

Why even mention what may be a minor offense? Well:
With all the potential for maiming and death inherent in 2,000 to 4,000 motor vehicles, it's astonishing there aren't more. It only takes a second or two of inattention to break the law and endanger people.

We should expect the police:
  1. To obey all traffic laws unless they are responding with lights and sirens to an emergency call.
  2. To take responsibility for their errors as they demand praise for each risk they endure.
As a disclaimer, I grew up around cops. Many relatives were troopers or city cops. My mother ran Red Cross chapters. She, my sister and I went on fires, disasters and training with them, as well as taught them first aid and water safety.

I also know from observation as well as those cops from my childhood that many of them, as well as many firefighters, sort of obey traffic laws. Many pass red lights after slowing or stopping. They know they won't get a ticket if they get caught.

Either in this era or this place, the situation seems worse. I can't stop thinking of Michelle Vibert, killed by an off-duty officer two years ago. The cop had been at a downtown bar for many hours and drove into her stalled car on Route 93 in the predawn. The state police and Suffolk DA report read that they didn't even test him for alcohol, as he said yeah, he'd been in the bar until closing but didn't drink. He got no charges in the death. Just try to imagine a civilian getting that latitude after killing someone.

Now we have the LITE version. Assuming the baby is bruised only and the mom can get over thinking her toddler was being killed as the stroller was ripped from her palms, who takes responsibility?

We'd like to think that our police have the incentive to drive safely. If they think they have to perform the most egregious of crimes, like massive drug trafficking, to be punished, they have none. Why should they bother if they don't even get a tick in their folder and maybe have to sit through some training?

It could be that this cop who hit the baby has a sense of responsibility and some honor. He or she could step up and say something like, "I'm so sorry. I looked away for an instant. I just didn't see them."

Our police commissioner, Edward Davis, should want that kind of responsible officer. If the department was full of those, there never would have been a call for a review board.

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