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Police vehicles crash with alarming frequency

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Police vehicles were involved in a crash every two weeks on average in the first eight months of this year, the service has revealed.

Since the start of 2018, at least 17 collisions have been linked to the Bermuda Police Service fleet — an average of 2.1 incidents a month.

The crashes were among nearly 340 recorded from 2011 to date but senior officers said the majority were minor damage collisions and injuries were rare.

The figures were released by the BPS after a Public Access to Information request from The Royal Gazette.

They show that police cars, vans and motorbikes were involved in 337 crashes from the start of 2011 until the middle of last month.

Not all of the incidents listed show who was at fault, although many resulted in “no further police action”.

Some were attributed to members of the public and in at least four instances the police vehicles were parked at the time.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Martin Weekes said it should come as “no surprise” that the fleet was involved in so many collisions.

He explained: “The Bermuda Police Service puts more miles on to our vehicles than any other vehicles belonging to the Bermuda Government.

“The BPS operates on a 24/7 basis and has patrol cars on the roads at all times throughout the day and night, often operating at high speeds and under stressful conditions when attending emergency calls from the public.

“It should be no surprise therefore that our vehicles are involved in more collisions than the average car and certainly more than most other government vehicles.”

Mr Weekes added: “That said, the majority of collisions involving police vehicles are minor damage only and rarely involve injury.”

BPS vehicles were involved in 38 crashes in 2017, up three on the total of 35 for each of the two previous years, but down from the four years before that.

The figures for 2011 to 2014 were 67, 57, 49 and 39 respectively.

Most of the records show the name of the driver and the list includes the highest ranks, including now retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Mike Jackman for two incidents in 2012 and 2013 that resulted in no further police action. Deputy Commissioner of Police Paul Wright was an assistant commissioner when he was the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash in 2014, and Assistant commissioner Antoine Daniels was listed among the 2015 collisions.

Robert Cardwell, now an Acting Chief Inspector and head of roads policing, was listed in the same year as the driver of a vehicle involved in a collision.

No fault was given for any of these in the information provided and there was no explanation of the circumstances.

The response included different levels of detail on incidents, but the statistics showed five of the crashes last year resulted in injury.

There were 11 such collisions in 2013 and two were said to be the fault of police officers.

Mr Weekes said all crashes associated with BPS vehicles were investigated by an officer of the rank of sergeant or above.

Each case is assigned a Traffic Collision Investigator, who can establish from skid marks, vehicle position and other evidence at the scene how the incident happened and can determine contributory factors such as speed, road surface condition and camber.

Mr Weekes added: “Where serious damage or injury occurs a Forensic Support Officer will also attend to take photographs of the scene to capture anything of evidential value.

He said that all collisions were recorded, even if they were minor.

Mr Weekes added: “A lot of our collisions involve when our officers are trying to negotiate in and out of unfamiliar driveways or trying to find unfamiliar residences during calls for service.

“Some occur during our driver training when we are striving to improve the skills and abilities of those assigned to response duties.”

Mr Weekes said all police drivers take part in “rigorous” training, which covered four grades.

These are authorised, standard, response and advanced. Each level has a maximum speed at which the officer is allowed to drive.

He added: “In order to travel at high speed when attending emergency calls, the driver must have been trained to at least ‘response' grade.

“Police motorcyclists must have achieved all driver grades before taking the advanced motorcycle course.”

Investigations were launched earlier this year into two accidents involving police cars that happened only hours apart in Hamilton Parish and Devonshire.

Mr Weekes said inquiries into the two crashes continued.

However, he added: “Where any offences are identified as possibly being committed by our drivers involved in a collision, a report is sent to the Service Discipline Officer, the Deputy Commissioner, who makes an assessment of conduct.

“Where the evidence points to offences being committed, a file is sent to the office of the Department of Public Prosecutions for their review.

“Where the DPP decides it is appropriate for an officer to be charged with offences, they are put before the courts in the same manner that any other driver would be.”

Written off: the remnants of two police bikes that were involved in a crash during a training exercise in Prospect (File photograph)
Assistant commissioner Martin Weekes (File photograph)

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Published September 13, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 13, 2018 at 7:16 am)

Police vehicles crash with alarming frequency

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