Winston-Salem misreports number of accidents involving police officers

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The City of Winston-Salem made a mistake when reporting how many accidents their officers have been involved in so far this year.

On Wednesday, city officials told FOX8 that there had been 18 accidents involving their officers in 2015. This came after the police department says one of their officers went to pull a U-turn and ended up colliding with a motorcyclist, bringing the number to 19.

However, the city also told FOX8 that their officers had been involved in 18 accidents back in June, after another one of their officers was involved in an accident with a 68-year-old man. That man later died and the officer was subsequently charged.

That man’s family has told FOX8 they have filed a lawsuit against the city.

FOX8 began asking questions regarding the numbers, and the city realized they had misreported the numbers to us on Wednesday.

City officials now say their officers have been involved in 51 preventable accidents so far in 2015. Of those 51 accidents, 18 have resulted in claims being filed against the city.

It appears the number of accidents reported to us in June was also a miscalculation. If it had been correct, it would mean that there had been over 30 accidents involving police officers in the last three months or so, which the city now says is incorrect.

In comparison, the city says there were 41 preventable accidents involving their police officers at this point in 2014.

The jump in accidents prompted City Manager Lee Garrity to order immediate measures to address the accidents. The measures had been previously scheduled to go into effect Nov. 1.

“The recent months have seen an increase in serious accidents involving police vehicles that could have been prevented,” Garrity said in a press release. “This trend cannot continue.”

The police department is now required to track and investigate all incidents where a police vehicle exceeds 70 mph, regardless of the circumstance or location. It also creates a point system for preventable accidents and stipulates penalties including reprimands, suspensions or termination based on the number of points a driver receives within a five-year period.

“A certain number of accidents are to be expected when our officers log more than eight million miles per year on the roads in all weather conditions and in high-stress situations,” said police chief Barry Rountree in the same press release. “However, the increase in accidents that we have experienced this year is not acceptable. We will take prompt and thorough measures to reverse it.”

Rountree declined further comment.

The measures will include:

  • A comprehensive review by the Professional Standards Division, the Training Division and the Traffic Enforcement Unit of all accidents involving police vehicles.
  •  Increased annual driver training with a focus on driving mannerisms to reduce preventable accidents.
  • Mandated remedial driver training for any officer involved in a preventable accident.
  • Safety training and reminders at the start of each work day.
  •  A review of technology that could aid in accident prevention.
  • Increased efforts to locate a site for a dedicated driving range where police officers can hone their driving skills under realistic conditions.
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