Monday, February 04, 2008
Deputy Kills Someone,
Gets Slap On The Wrist
Title: "Deputy avoids felony charge in fatal crash," by Frederick Melo
The usual drill: if the LINK to the story brings you to a "Subscribe for free before you get to read the story" page, search via Google using the title and writer's name. Alternate version of this story here.
Billy Wallace, age 58, was riding his motorcycle last August. Joshua J. Williams, age 29, was in his last phase of training to become a patrol officer. The patrol car, being driven by Williams, did not have its lights flashing or sirens on. Williams was responding to a non-emergency call and made an illegal and sudden left-hand turn from the right lane of the highway. The patrol car ran smack into Wallace and he died three hours after the collision.
Williams was charged with one count of careless driving. If convicted he faces up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Wallace, according to the SPPP story, was a Vietnam War veteran, divorced with no children. His father, reacting to the relatively minor charge against Williams, said, "that ain't nothing."
This is not an anti-cop post. I know the work that law enforcement officials do is physically and mentally hard and grueling work that is often thankless.
Wallace's family expected the charges against Williams to be more severe. I agree with them, it seems Williams is getting off with a far lighter sentence than the Average Joe would receive if they caused the same accident.
The story states:
State law provides certain exemptions from the speed limit and other traffic codes for law enforcement officials who are responding to emergencies. Even in those situations, the statute indicates it "does not relieve the officer from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of persons using the street."
Perhaps the best advice to any rookie or cadet completing, or near completing, their law enforcement training would be for the instructors to drill into their heads is that they are not - and are unlikely to ever be - Serpico or Popeye Doyle. Having the power to arrest someone or respondingto a call for help conveyed onto someone does not mean they can pursue those means with blatant disregard for the safety of others or that they are entitled to recklessly engage is behavior that could be dangerous to innocent bystanders.
I understand and accept the fact that there are times when police and troopers will not turn on their lights and sirens in order to preserve, for their advantage, the element of surprise in catching a criminal or someone in the act of committing a crime. But to repeat, the story states that Williams was not responding to an emergency call.
Here's what we know according to the story: Williams was not responding to an emergency call. He did not activate his patrol car lights or sirens. He made an illegal and sudden left-hand turn from a right-hand lane. He slammed into an innocent man who was riding his motorcycle who died three hours later at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. For this, an officer who was in his last stage of law enforcement training, is charged with a misdemeanor. I agree with Wallace's father..."that ain't nothing."
Labels: Joshua Williams
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