20 Police Car Wrecks in 1 Year

February 20, 2009
By

JOHN RUCH

No response on causes

Boston Police Department (BPD) vehicles have been involved in at least 20 accidents in Jamaica Plain in the past year, according to a Gazette review of BPD incident reports. That includes an August 2008 incident where a police officer was cited for running into a stroller containing a 1-year-old baby.

But it is unclear what happened, and who was at fault, in all of the other police car accidents. The BPD has not provided any explana-tion for the accidents to the Gazette, despite two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests the Gazette filed over the past four months.

In the August 2008 incident, a police truck from the local E-13 Police Station hit the baby stroller while the infant’s mother pushed it through the crosswalk at Centre Street and Seaverns Avenue. The baby reportedly received minor injuries. The officer was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian and sent back to the police academy for driving classes, BPD spokesperson Elaine Driscoll told the Gazette at the time.

While the baby stroller incident drew significant public attention, the BPD never announced that the police officer was at fault. That information was revealed only months later, when the Boston Globe asked the BPD about it.

The baby stroller incident was just one of at least 19 accidents involving police vehicles last year in Jamaica Plain. There has been at least one police vehicle accident this year. [See sidebar for a list of accidents.]

Four of the accidents reportedly occurred at the E-13 Police Station on Washington Street, including two at different times on the same day.

The Gazette frequently observes police vehicles violating significant traffic and parking rules in apparent non-emergency situations, including parking on sidewalks and in crosswalks.

For example, on the afternoon of Feb. 10, the Gazette observed a police officer stop his police car in a Monument Square crosswalk to have a prolonged chat with another officer who was guarding a utility repair site. The police car was stopped lengthwise across Eliot Street, completely blocking it, until another driver beeped. At that point, the police officer pulled over into a nearby MBTA bus stop to continue the chat. The police car used no lights or signals and was in the intersection while the traffic signal was red. Blocking an intersection and stopping in crosswalks and bus stops are illegal.

A Boston Globe article this week reported that BPD officers regularly park illegally around BPD headquarters on Tremont Street in Mission Hill/Roxbury, and continue to do so despite the Globe raising the issue. Among the reported repeat violators is a car registered to the BPD’s top parking enforcement officer.

BPD incident reports, which are published in the Gazette, are often incomplete, so it is possible there were more police car accidents. The incident reports do not provide any detail about the accidents, only that they involved a police vehicle.

Last October, when the police car accident tally was 14 (not counting the baby stroller incident), the Gazette asked Driscoll for their details and whether any officers were found at fault in them. Driscoll said the Gazette would have to file a FOIA request for that information.

The Gazette filed the FOIA request on Oct. 29, 2008, but received no response. The Gazette filed a second FOIA request last month. Driscoll responded to the second request by saying she would work on getting the information to the Gazette. But no information had been provided as of this week.

Under federal and state open-records laws, government agencies generally have a maximum of 21 days to either provide public records or explain when and how they will be made available.