Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Not without precedent

Mayor Beutler's proposed budget includes a cut of two police officers, to be accomplished by discontinuing the investigation of non-injury motor vehicle collisions.  It's an idea I floated before here in my blog, where it received a tepid response. It has continued to be in the annual budget discussion since then, because it is among the lowest remaining priorities in the police department's list of programs and services.

Cutting services performed by our police officers is certainly not without precedent.  Like all city departments, LPD has ranked all of its major programs and services in priority order, based on the relative contribution each makes to the department's overall mission: providing services that promote a safe and secure community.  Services that were ranked lower than crash investigation have already been cut, including such things as elementary school resource officers, funeral escorts, police response to most medical emergencies, drive-offs from self-service gas pumps, response to barking dog complaints, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, citizen police academy, assistance with keys locked in vehicles, middle school resource officers, and downtown parking enforcement--to name a few.

Among those many cuts in programs and services over the years is one that took place in 1991: police investigation of private property traffic crashes.  We used to handle nearly 2,000 of these every year, on parking lots, in apartment complexes, and on the network of private roadways. During a time when police resources weren't keeping up with population growth, my predecessor as police chief, Al Curtis, unveiled a package of service cuts in an effort to prioritize the more important stuff.  Crashes continue to happen on private property every day, but there are no longer investigations unless the case is a hit and run or an injury is involved. Despite this, owners and drivers apparently manage to obtain information for their insurance company, and resolve their claims without anarchy reigning.
Click image to enlarge
I had a personal experience with this a few years ago.  My wife was shopping at Target, and had parked her brand new Volkswagen way out at the end of the lot to avoid any risk of door dings.  Unbeknownst to her, a mother had also taken her 15 year old daughter to the same mostly-empty area of the parking lot for a driving lesson.  The trainee panicked and hit the accelerator rather than the brake, jumping a median, taking out a sapling, and slamming into the new Passat to the tune of almost $4,000.  I had to twist State Farm's arm just a little, only because they balked when I wanted them to reimburse me for the $70 cost of two bouquets of flowers I had sent to my wife and to the 15 year old in the aftermath of the crash. The matter was settled amicably and quickly, though, without a police investigation.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I understand that the time to investigate calculates to two officers in hours of work however managing human resources I am aware that there is a bigger impact on the remaining staff as that is not all that was accomplished with these two officers. I am not saying to not cut the service but cutting the officers seems like going backwards in trying to reach 1.5 officers you have had as a goal for many years and as the City grows in area and population this makes it harder to cover all the area. I find it interesting that the Mayor wants to us the fact that LPD reaches their goals as reason to cut I guess rewards go to departments not achieving the goals. I am not saying Lincoln will be less secure because the fine employees at LPD always step up but why should they be punished for doing a good job.

I am not necessarily for cutting the service either as I believe it is very comforting and helpful to citizens dealing with tragedy (in their eyes at the time).

Raise my taxes to keep Officers! I want to know when I call in need of one they are available and not stretched thin.

Concerned Citizen

Steve said...

A nice gesture, Tom, but really...reimbursment for flowers?

I don't expect that eliminating non-injury crash investigations will create a great deal of hardship for anyone, but I also don't doubt that the savings in taxes will be more than offset by increased insurance rates. Of course, that matters not to the many traveling our streets (public or private) who have no insurance. It seems those are the ones who usually run into me.

I think I can already feel the pain in my neck from my next traffic collision...somebody call a cop! :)

Tom Casady said...

8:08,

Yep.

Steve,

Geez, they were both in tears and felt terrible. Flowers are a man's best friend. I was just playing with the claims adjuster.

Buy the best insurance you can reasonably afford, to protect yourself from the hoard of suspended drivers with no insurance out there who are "judgement proof"--can't squeeze blood from a turnip, as they say.

Anonymous said...

Good to do away with investigating those. will free up many man hours, especially on SE team.

Anonymous said...

I don't know but maybe since you were the Chief of Police at the time of the accident involving your wife's car may have played some role in the fact the matter was settled amicably and quickly. I wonder if it would have involved 2 Judy Citizens if it would have had the same result.

Anonymous said...

Possibly the Mayor should look at his own department for cuts? How many assistants and assistants to the assistants does the Mayor have? I'm thinking rather than consider cutting law enforcement, there are other less important jobs that could/should be considered!

Steve said...

I understand and agree about buying insurance so you're covered when one of the scofflaws causes a crash. On the other hand, I'd be happy as can be if they were thrown in jail for the rest of their days when that happens, or before it happens. If they won't purchase insurance, or don't have a valid driver's license, they shouldn't be on the streets to begin with. I realize you don't make the laws, and your people can't stop every single crime being committed, but when these people are caught driving without a license or insurance, it's proof that they don't care about obeying the law, which to me means they should be in jail.

Tom Casady said...

12:23,

I think that in this case, a bigger factor was that the Casady vehicle was parked and unoccupied. It no doubt helped that the owners knew one another, both had local insurance agents, and both did business with major "brand name" insurance companies. While it's not always this straightforward, I don't hear too much gnashing of teeth arising from a couple thousand private property accidents that aren't investigated by the police. I don't doubt there are some horror stories out there, but it must be tolerable for the most part, or I think we'd hear about it more often.

Steve,

I agree in principal, but in reality, we are paroling people so fast that you've just got to wonder how much more the system can stand.

Anonymous said...

Reading some of the comments here and in the paper, I can't wait to be the first one on my block to write a false reporting ticket to someone who claims to be injured just to get an accident report made.

Watchful said...

Director, let me ask you this... Let's say there is a "fender bender" and information is exchanged between drivers with license and insurances assigned as they should be. An insurance company (or both) balks at paying for damages because it is a he said, she said about how the accident occurred.


If police are not writing reports, who can be an immediate un-biased party to share their observations and resolve the dispute? Most witnesses as you know, don't often stick around to report what they observed.


I can't imagine police are able to write a detailed accident report, days or weeks after the event. Is there a plan in place for officers to at least do a narrative which documents who said what at the time? This seems to me, a way to meet somewhere in the middle between not making an official report and doing a complete one for non-injury accidents.


Would this take time- sure, but significantly less than pulling out the rolling yard stick and their sturdy plastic template for crash investigations to mark where everything was before and after the wreck.


The other thing which comes to mind is how skewed statistics will be when it comes to the number of accidents reported by insurance.com or Allstate the next time the worst/best drivers are listed.

Steve said...

1:13

I understand your dismay with the thought of people claiming injuries just to get the cops to investigate. On the other hand, I can see where people who feel they were not at fault would feel they deserve some kind of official confirmation of that to present to their carriers (report from police, especially if the other driver was ticketed). Not only that, but good luck proving someone falsely claimed to be injured. (Unless they're really stupid and admit it.)

I went the opposite route when I was broadsided by a speeding semi trying to pass me in an intersection as I was making a left turn. I was probably in a state of shock along with a concussion at the time, and I didn't feel the need to go with the ambulance to a hospital, so I signed a waiver and refused service. I ended up going on my own when my wife saw my totalled Dodge Omni and saw me hobbling around on a painful left ankle. I ended up getting thousands of dollars worth of medical treatment. I won't make that mistake again.

Tom Casady said...

2:33,

I understand what you're suggesting, a sort of abbreviated investigation and report. The problem with that is contained in State Statute 60-695, which requires us to use the report specified by the Nebraska Department of Roads, IF...IF...we investigate an accident. We would have to adopt the position that we are not investigating the accident. I do not believe that we could square an alternative report with this statute.

Anonymous said...

1:13,

If they say they have emergent pain and visit a doc to have it assessed and treated, how would you write them that ticket? Can you prove they do not have pain? They say they have pain without visible injury as a result of the collision. You can't prove that they don't, because they checked all the boxes, so to speak. It's why everybody and their dog are getting hydrocodone scrips from these hole-in-the-wall pain centers, because if the patient says they have pain, and acts like they do, the doc generally agrees.

As soon as the city/county attorney tosses out a bunch of your false reporting tickets - after they see the doc's note, your bosses will begin to notice that a lot of your tickets are getting tossed.

Steve said...

I think it's stretching it a bit to send an officer to check for licenses, assertain if there was alcohol involved, make sure those involved had insurance, etc., and still claim the accident is not being investigated. However, I can live with that.

As for witnesses, I volunteered more than once, to testify as to my knowledge of a traffic collision that I had witnessed. If more people were willing to spend a few minutes of their time to support those in the right, or help to place the blame on those in the wrong (there are few, if any crashes, where someone didn't violate the law), we wouldn't need the police reports (however, I still think tickets should be issued when it is clear which party failed to yeild, or whatever). If you see an wreck, stop and give your contact information to the driver you believe was in the right. Chances are, if it comes to court, you'll be contacted and given a chance to offer your take on the issue.

Tom Casady said...

1:13 and 3:12,

We would need to adopt a clear working definition of what constitutes an injury accident, in order to proceed with this plan. I would lean towards "immediate emergency treatment."

Anonymous said...

In that case, I'd always go to the ER in an ambulance and check thet immediate emergency treatment box, and would advise everyone else to do the same. It'd be worth the expense to me, if it assured the accident was fully investigated. If the crash isn't my fault, that report can be worth its weight in gold.

Anonymous said...

"response to barking dog complaints"

That's quite timely, in an unintentional and coincidental way.

1:13 said...

I doubt there would be very many instances where you could prove someone is lying about being injured in an accident so I don't think there are going to be many false report tickets written or dismissed 3:12.

I'm saying if you lie to a police officer, a doctor and an insurance company about being injured, and you really aren't, I will gladly write you a ticket for filing a false report IF I can prove it. The chances of that happening are very slim though and officers are not going to go out of their way to try to prove someone is not actually injured in every injury accident.

To me, it would be easier to just tell the truth and do the right thing. I feel the majority would. I hate to think most people are that low down.

MRDRIVEDRUNK said...

I hate to think most people are that low down.

Yes, this is true. Now that the accident must be an injury, the DNA of those "Low Down" you have elected via the new policy, will have the number of accidents increase. Who is doing the thinking in the mayors office, and has the magic eight ball been misplaced.
Also, the dog barking leading to a shooting. I predicted last year it was going to happen. And, because of Lincoln Muni code and the noise policy having NO bite, the old west has returned. Better now?
Also, the city has put up "Walk Closed" signs at 22nd and P street. This further obstructs the view for drivers. Why not get a death row inmate to choose crossing this way during rush hour for an execution. Oh, darn, the signs were imported from China. Bad idea. Is this world getting further lost in the fog or do I need new glasses.

MRDRIVEDRUNK said...

July 10, 2012 1:13 PM writes:
I can't wait to be the first one on my block to write a false reporting ticket to someone who claims to be injured just to get an accident report made.

Are you kidding us? I hope you are not an LEO, in fact, I am sure you are not. In the training the LPD has, an officer is supposed to decide prior to contact with a driver as to writing a warning or official. This prevents emotions from entering the decision, and leaves the choice to simple law violation severity. Example: some years ago the City prosecutor started to decline prosecution on speeding unless it was five mile an hour or greater over the posted. Thus LPD my PC a stop on this for further fishing, and be within the law and policy of LPD in doing so. But, twenty somethings think they are Clark Kent. If you have to google this name, it includes you! Is all this still accurate?

Anonymous said...

Unless they're really stupid and admit it.)
So you suggest to lie is smart. Steve: the comments you post are leaving a bunch of questions about character.

Steve said...

7:00 Anon

I suggested no such thing. Let's leave these personal attacks for the LJS comments pages. Besides, intelligence has nothing to do with character, so a person could be smart or stupid and still be a jerk, or vice versa.

Anonymous said...

I for one was very grateful to the officer who took my police report on a non injury accident. Of course, after I was excused to leave, the other driver talked her way out of the ticket for which she was clearly at fault. I called the Traffic Sgt and asked to have the report reviewed. It was and she was ticketed. My rates went up immediately after, but after she was found quilty of the offense, my rates went back down and I got a refund for the overpayment. Without that intervention by LE and a report with photos, I wouldn't have gotten resolution on the case and probably would have had to pay the higher rates for some time.

Anonymous said...

I hope MRDRIVEDRUNK wasn't driving when he left his posts.

Anonymous said...

Tom-Flowers are appropriate during any time of stress. Steve-Never admit you actually drove an Omni. All-When you have uninsured motorist coverage, remember that your payout is under your collision coverage which means the uninsured just cost you your deductible (mine is $1000). So be prepared to pay even if the private property accident with the uninsured illegal is not your fault.

D256

Anonymous said...

Sending bouquets is a lovely personal gesture. However, I would hate to think that State Farm has to factor in such expenses when setting its rates.

MRDRIVEDRUNK said...

Steve writes: "intelligence has nothing to do with character".
Take a deer for example. A mounted head above the fireplace is not the result of a stupid deer, but of a smart hunter. But now you do a political somba and the deer is smart and the hunter stupid. To lable the comment you respond to as a personal attack is how you took it, not as it was intended.
The charge of "personal attacks" is dismissed. As for intelligence having nothing to do with character, just read above, take some deep breathing, close eyes, and have that divine light shine.

Steve said...

Yeah, whatever. :( ???

Steve said...

Why not run a public relations/ fund-raising campaign like so many organizations do nowadays? If we can raise the lion's share of $2.6M for a stupid colored-glass tower and what looks like an ill-conceived soccer goal frame downtown, we ought to be able to raise enough money to pay for those two officers we'd otherwise lose to attrition. We just need to make sure the money donated goes to that end, and not some other lame-brained plan, and we could keep officers coming to traffic accidents regardless of injuries.

I'd be happy to run the fund-raising for nothing, but the going rate seems to be about two thirds of the money collected going to the organizer. I'll glady do it for half that. :)

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the $100,000 contract for the artist to design this space. I'm sure the art is beautiful but really $2.6 MILLION??
Between that and the re-branding project, I'm wondering how fiscally responsible our leaders are.

Anonymous said...

First of all I don't see people wanting to go by ambulance to a hospital when they are not injured or need to do that. Who wants to ride in an ambulance then sit in an ER for hours waiting to be seen by a doctor just to have them tell you to take some advil for pain.
All this for an accident report? sheesh. Seems like a lot of wasted time and energy. As it stands right now, If a driver hits you and doesn't have insurance one of two things are gonna happen. 1 he would get a ticket for no insurance. ($100.00 fine) he can pay that and be done. Maybe a license suspension. That won't keep him from driving. 2 He is not the registered owner of the vehicle so he can't get a ticket. the owner of the car has to get the ticket. Again $100 fine. Recovering expenses for your car from a driver without insurance is handled through civil proceedings. A $100 ticket is not that big of a deal to these people without insurance. Accidents are civil matters unless it is a hit and run, DUI, or suspended license.
Everyone is against this cut of officers working accidents until they are at fault.
And I don't think LFR is gonna run out of ambulances everytime a minor fender bender happens.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why my comment about how police/fire - the main thing that most taxpaying voters actually care about most (followed by street maintenance and snow removal) - always get threatened at budget time, in order to cause fear among those taxpaying voters, but it apparently had something in it that didn't pass moderation. In any case, it's pretty transparent, and reprehensible. All eyes on getting re-elected, I suppose, since that's the #1 priority of nearly every elected official everywhere.

Steve said...

Anon 9:45

For most of us, a couple of hours in an emergency room would be well worth it if it saved you, hundreds of dollars in either costs to fix your vehicle or increased insurance rates. I'm not saying it's right, or that anyone would enjoy it, but if one was convinced the accidents was another's fault, it might well be worth doing. A couple of hundred dollars might mean food on the table for a week or two for some families. Don't get me wrong, I'm not dead set against this plan, it's just that I see it might well create more problems for more people than some cuts elsewhere in the budget.

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