Monday, October 6, 2008

Why would you assume that?

I received this email a few weeks ago, meant to blog about it, and never quite got it done until today.

"I just wanted to share with you something I saw last night that
concerned me. Around 11:30 PM, I was traveling east on Cornhusker
Highway, approaching 48th St. In the right turn lane (turning east),
stopped at the stop light, was a police cruiser (it may have been a
State Patrol vehicle, I cannot say for sure). As I was turning on to
48th, I saw the cruiser's lights switch on as he drove through the red
light. Immediately after he cleared the light, the flashers went off.

I don't know if there is an exact policy on this or not, but I find
that kind of behavior very troubling. This is the kind of thing that
helps to fuel the negative feelings so many Lincolnites have about law
enforcement officers. Regardless of whether it is a condoned practice,
I wanted to bring it to your attention. Thank you."

I get calls or correspondence like this from time to time. Back when I worked in Internal Affairs I would take an occasional complaint of the same nature. I just don't understand why someone, having observed an officer turn his or her lights on and tap the siren to clear an intersection, would automatically assume that the officer had no good reason to do so.

From looking at dispatches during this time frame back on Sept. 11, I surmised that it was probably one of the Northeast Team's officers was on the way to an alarm at Dyno Sport, a nearby business. I explained to this correspondent that officers sometimes are on their way to events that are not quite full-bore emergencies, yet require an expedited response without a 45 second delay--as well as one which does not broadcast the officer's approach too dramatically in advance of his or her arrival. I suppose if you've never feathered the emergency brake, you just don't understand the need for stealth in approaching a potential crime in progress.

I never heard anything back after sending the reply. I imagine given this mind set that the writer now just figures I'm just covering up for an officer who was in a rush to get a taco.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I get asked about that all the time and see it referenced to in the Journal Star comments left by readers. They seem to think that we aren't going anywhere and just do it because we don't want to wait for the light. If we wait for the light and get to their call 45 seconds later though they are unhappy about the response time.

Anonymous said...

I'm just a regular citizen, but I believe that GO 1610 is relevant here (please correct me if I'm wrong), and it seems the use of emergency signaling equipment was perfectly kosher in the context of that GO. "The nature of the call and information received from the dispatcher", and "The need for the immediate presence of an officer at the scene" seem of particular import.

I'm not sure what possesses a disturbingly large minority of addle-brained people that causes them to reflexively assume that an LEO is in the wrong until proven otherwise. You can see examples of this blindered mindset in examples like the one you mentioned, all the way to a "suicide by cop" shooting, and everything in between. They always think you folks are some kind of malevolent force.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a psychological condition, maybe call it "cop envy." They have never had a job like being a cop that requires you to think outside the box, and often plan 4 moves ahead, i.e. deciding the quickest route to a call while your driving it, and planning your approach, tactical parking, and weapon selection, be it deploy the street rifle from your trunk prior to advancing, or deciding that your issued pistol will suffice, given the dispatch relayed circumstances etc... They would rather jump to the conclusion that we didn't want to sit at the light like they are having to and are upset by that.... Freud would say that this condition stems from a 'mother issue', but I'm no doctor.... =)

Kevin said...

Chief Casady:

While I have the utmost respect for law enforcement, and while I agree with your response to this particular scenario, I have had similar concerns over other actions of local officers from time to time.

When I see an officer driving down the road, going 5-10mph over the speed limit, I wonder why they choose not to turn on their lights. Perhaps they need to respond to a call quickly but don't want to impede traffic by forcing everyone to the side of the road. I would consider that a valid reason. But what is the actual rule? Are officers allowed to speed without some combination of lights/sirens?

I've been told that the speed limits are in place for my safety and the safety of others. A police cruiser without flashing lights, gets noticed by very few drivers. This is even more true at night. So how is a police cruiser going +10mph any less dangerous to other motorists than myself going +10mph?

I hope this doesn't come across as a whining life-isn't-fair post. There may very well be a good reason for why officers are instructed to do things in this way. So to wrap this up, I am asking what the rules are for officers in regards to speeding without lights/sirens. And if the accepted practice differs from those rules.

Thanks,
-Kevin

Anonymous said...

Hey Kevin,

This is a good question but you have to remember all the calls that the officers are going to throughout the day. If you are in a traffic accident do you want the responding officer to go 35 mph in a 35 mph zone or do you want them to get there quicker to help you deal with this event. I could give you numerous examples but you get the point. Police get criticized for either driving too fast to a call or for not getting to the call quick enough. Which way would you like it but you can not have be quick response to you or your families emergencies and slow response to everyone else’s emergencies. Police can not use lights and sirens on all their calls and we do not want them to use them on all their calls. Police have very restrictive rules but you would want police to bend them a little if you needed help!

Grundle said...

On a somewhat related note, I also witnessed Lincoln Police Officers exceeding the speed limit heading south about 1-2 blocks north of 48th and O street, and then again about 30 seconds later heading north about 1-2 blocks north of 44th and O street. I live in the Tanglewood apartment complex, and there seemed to be a lot of police activity going on, but never once did I see flashing lights or hear sirens. While standing in the parking lot talking to our friends, the same police cruiser drove by 3 times. This happened about 9:00 pm the night of September 24th...but there doesn't appear to be anything in the incident reports or crime maps for that date and time. My suspicion was, and is, that the officers were looking for someone, but without any sort of information available for that night, there's no way to know.

I'm not complaining or questioning the officer's actions...but it does make me curious as to what was going on when there doesn't seem to be any information on the city website that would clue anyone in.

Anonymous said...

Come on Kevin and Grundle:

It would be nice to go to your work and watch you for your entire work day. Try being an officer and having people like you second guess their every move. You should be thankful that we have people willing to be put on display for their entire shift.

Anonymous said...

grundle,
I can tell you that officers were sent to a shoplift at SuperSaver on 9-24-08 just before 9pm. Four males ran from the store with the stolen goods. I venture to guess that several officers were searching the area.
It was a reported incident that you should be able to locate under CrimeView Community.

Tom Casady said...

Kevin:

1. LPD Policy: "All police vehicles shall be operated in a manner which does not jeopardize the safety of the public and in accordance with all laws and General Orders governing their use."

2. Lincoln Municipal Code 10.04.020: "The provisions of this title regulating the movement, parking, and standing of vehicles shall not apply to emergency vehicles as defined in this title while the driver of such vehicle is operating it in the necessary performance of public duties."

3. If we ran lights and sirens to every call necessitating an expedited response, it would be unbearable for officers and the public. We simply can't do it the same way LF&R operates due to volume. Remember that 87% of the time when the phone rings at 911, it's for LPD. We are dispatching police officers to 400 incidents daily, and multiple units on many of those. That said, we should not be shy at all about turning on the lights and siren when needed. Code driving itself presents certain hazards, though, so we should not do it unnecessarily.

4. When expediting a response, officers should keep the speed reasonably close to the limit. When not responding to something time-sensitive, we should always drive within the speed limit.

5. Police officers generally, self included, need to slow down. The efficacy of response time is vastly overestimated in most cases. We need to set a good example for the motoring public, as well. We need to control the adrenaline jolt that is epidemic in our work through conscious concentration.

I drive around this city on duty an off duty in an unmarked city vehicle and in my personal vehicle. Generally, I see our officers driving just fine. Rarely, I'll see something that makes me cringe a little. Here's the difference between me and the person that sent that email: when I see a police officer flip a u-turn, tap a siren to clear an intersection, or driving 5 MPH over the limit, my initial reaction is: "Where's the call?" The writer of the email's initial reaction is "Where's the donut?"

Anonymous said...

I was thinking maybe you should equip each cruiser with a moving LED marquee that advertises what call each cop is on, why they are going 5 miles over the speed limit, what they had for lunch and if the coffee in their cup holder is black or with sugar.
Gimme a break! Don't you think we ought to trust their judgement on running a red light knowing that there are all kinds of people out there ready to write to the chief? No, I'm not a cop.

Anonymous said...

Ok time to nit pic.
The exit from LPD onto K ST to the north and then to the east makes the LPD drivers cross THREE lanes of traffic to go north on 10th St. Crossing three lanes of traffic from this entry point is not legal. As confined to this example,it is not possible to cross three lanes in one block if it is done according to traffic law.(three lanes in fifty yards) This is a clear example of not obeying the traffic laws. Also this is what some readers see every day.
Good job on getting the bank heist people today.

Anonymous said...

There are occasions where officers are dispatched to a priority call but after a minute or so, they get called off or another officer arrives first and informs others the code response is no longer necessary. This could account for an officer using his emergency lights and then shutting them down for no apparent reason.

Anonymous said...

Chief,

On an unrelated note I would like to commend your Officers on a job well done on the Tier One Bank robbery today. They worked well with LSO and NSP. It was a very quick apprehention of three people who are worthless to society. Again to all LPD LSO and NSP job well done!!!

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
I'm not criticizing your comment, I just want to know what part of the city you drive in, so I can be in absolute shock that traffic moves to the side of the road when I do activate my lights and sirens.

Grundle said...

Hey, believe me, I'm not criticizing the officer's actions. I sympathize greatly with the fact that citizens have the luxury of looking at their actions through a microscope and playing armchair quarterback without having any real idea of what was going on at the time. I wasn't trying to criticize the officers at all, I was more or less curious as to what was going on at the time in question.

And to anonymous 11:27, thank you for that info. I was unable to find anything, but it appears now that I was looking in the wrong place. Thanks again.

haZZard said...

anon 10:27 & Chief Casady:

Thank you for the informative responses!

I realize this is a touchy subject, but I really think it's an important one for BOTH citizens and police officers to understand.

Perhaps I just have a case of "cop envy" as Anon 8:57 says. But all I want is for police to understand that my rights are important to me and I'm not doing anything wrong by exercising them, even if it does make their job more difficult. One of those rights, is to be able to question what rules cops must abide by and to expect that they have to follow those rules, just as I do. A slippery slope would follow if it became unreasonable to question the conduct of an officer.

On the flip side, police should be able to do their job without having to deal with "I pay your salary" or "Go catch some real criminals" from Joe Sixpack as they write him a ticket for going +10 in a school zone. Or getting metaphorically castrated by the media for using a taser on a knife wielding drunk who won't comply with lawful commands, especially when the alternative was a hollow-point.

I think both parties need to take a look at the other side.

-Kevin

Anonymous said...

As you are well aware the following is Gen Order 1610. I am trying to understand the officers need to bump the siren or "clear the intersection" with lights and or siren if they were following the policy as it is written.

If the officer was responding Code 1, then per policy lights and siren are not used.

If the officer was responding code 2 then the lights should have been on the whole time. and the siren should have been used to "clear the intersection" while driving within the speed limit.

If the officer were responding code 3 then the neighborhood should have been well aware of them not just the intersection.

Seems to me that, not to "Nit Pick" LOL (=-0)... the officer was clearly not following general order 1610 if it is true that he/she came to the intersection stopped, turned on the lights, drove through the intersection and then turned the lights back off.

I have personally observed this type of action by LPD but have always thought it was nessesary for them to do so. Dont get me wrong, I am not against this action. I would hope that if I needed help, the responding officer would not hesitate to blow that light. Lights, siren or not!

I'm just anal about orders, written policy and anything else that would cover safety of other people and property.

Scanner Listener.


A. Response Codes
1. Code 1: Routine non-emergency response.
Officers will obey traffic laws while
responding without unnecessary delay.
Emergency signaling equipment will not be
used.
2. Code 2: Urgent/emergency response.
Officers will respond immediately, and will
drive within the speed limit, stopping at all
stop signs and red traffic signals before
proceeding. Officers will respond using
emergency lights continuously. Officers will
use the siren whenever violating traffic
control devices, and at other times as
needed. When responding Code 2, officers
shall drive with due regard for the safety of
all persons.
3. Code 3: Urgent/emergency response.
Officers will respond immediately utilizing
emergency lights and siren continuously.
Speed in excess of 10 mph over the speed
limit is authorized only in cases of extreme
urgency. When responding Code 3, officers
shall drive with due regard for the safety of
all persons

Anonymous said...

BTW:

Great job on the Bank job. I wish I would have been able to hear this one. Sometimes the job interfears with the hobby. Ho Hum! (;-()... I'll catch the next one.


Scanner Listener.

Trina said...

Regarding Kevin's first post and question: "So how is a police cruiser going +10mph any less dangerous to other motorists than myself going +10mph?"

I'm making an assumption for LPD, but most police agencies require some sort of defensive driving and/or emergency vehicle operations training on a regular basis, at minimum yearly. They are more highly trained than other motorists, therefore (in my opinion) less dangerous than any random speeder.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:24-
As much as we appreciate the second guessing, think for a second. You are a cop. You are responding to a break in alarm somewhere. You don't want the bad guy to prepare for your arrival and ambush you so you don't initiate sirens. From your years as an officer you know from experience that joe citizen apparently doesn't know the "pull to the right when you see lights" rule and generally will stop dead in place, or even side by side another veh, making it impassible. So often if we drive witout our emergency lights activated people don't freeze up and we can navigate traffic as needed and actually get there much faster than if we were code 3 or 2. Sirens can be heard for many blocks depending on the night and weather. SO, if w're getting close, any lights/sirens that had been on are now shut down, and 'whooping' the siren to clear an intersection is not an option, as the bad guys know you're there. Safety first, I have a family too and I don't want to get killed. If there is a car coming, I won't drive through the intersection...This isn't my first rodeo, give me a break. try and think outside the box a little, this is one of many reasons why this may have occurred. If any of you think you could do the job better, or more efficiently, by all means, apply. Or, come do a ride along, maybe you will see the dangers and reasoning that we deal with daily, and should not/ cannot explain them all to you. You wouldn't understand having never had to put yor life on the line multiple times per day for total strangers.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:24,

One more issue to consider is this: When approaching an intersection with active cross traffic and your lights are activated, cross traffic motorists will be forced into making a quick decision (slam the brakes or proceed across). These quick choices can lead to avoidable accidents. To prevent this event from occurring the Officer may approach the intersection without his overhead lights activated and only turn them on after making sure that crossing can be accomplished safely. At least that has been my thought process in the past.

Anonymous said...

I guess the point was lost with atleast two posters. Policy was the point.

In the email, the scenerio stipulates the cruiser was stopped with out lights or siren. Per the GO if the officer was responding to a call; they had to have been code 1 or the lights should have been used from time of dispatch to arrival again per GO 1610.

I understand more then you know the need to be clandestine in your approach to some situations. I personally believe that being stopped at an intersection while traffic may or may not be aproaching you, that it would be more starteling to oncomeing traffic then if the lights were on to begin with.

I guess it's my own opinion but the GO was written for a reason. I would be willing to bet that saftey for all scenerio's was a factor in the mind of the original writer.

As a person who drives a large truck and thinks like a professional driver Should, I am always looking ahead and would be more able to slow and move out of the way if I were to see the lights. This is not to say that the common driver would. We all know that distractions like cell phones and other passengers will take away from the thoughts of good driving. This is why I believe the lights should be used.


*NOTE*
always drive defensively not aggressively and you are better prepared for the folks that dont follow rules and regulations.

Scanner Listener.