Middletown police officers have been involved in five crashes this year, already matching the total number the department recorded in 2015, said Lt. Scott Reeve.
He described two of the police involved crashes as “extremely minor,” but said the most recent crash at the intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard and Breiel Boulevard on Feb. 2 was substantial.
Officers Raqib Ahmed and Evan Mosley were responding to a report of shots fired when they neared the busy intersection. The police video shows Ahmed, with his lights and sirens activated, stopping for the red light at the intersection as cars passed. When the intersection cleared, Ahmed turned west on Roosevelt, then was struck by a pick-up truck on the driver’s side.
Witnesses said the driver of the pick-up truck sped up because the light was yellow, Reeve said. After investigating, Reeve said it takes 6.5 seconds from the time the light on Roosevelt turns from yellow to red to when the traffic traveling on Breiel gets the green left-turn arrow.
Reeve, patrol commander, said he’s investigating the accident and expects to cite the driver of the truck for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.
The number of crashes — five in the first five weeks of the year — is a “kind of high,” Reeve said. The officers were involved in five crashes in 2015 and eight last year, he said.
“I’m hoping we are just having a little spike here,” he said. “Hopefully it starts slowing down.”
Dozens of Middletown officers this month and last trained on a mobile simulator in a virtual cruiser. The training exercises, provided by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, took officers on real scenarios from rushing to an injury crash to assisting an officer on a traffic stop with a gun involved.
Traffic crashes in the last two years showed sharp improvements over the previous three years when the officers were involved in 13, 17, and 19 crashes, respectively, he said. Reeve said it’s important to understand officers average about 60 miles on the road every shift.
When officers are at fault for causing an accident, they face administrative discipline from Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw, Reeve said. If the accident in a fatality, it will be reviewed by an outside agency, he said.
Of the five accidents this year, Reeve said it appears Middletown officers were at fault in two of them. On Jan. 23, an officer accidentally backed into another cruiser in the parking garage.
The accident on Jan. 11 was much more serious and shows the dangerous of responding to an emergency, Reeve said. Officers Jim Lusk and Holly Owens were driving to a report of a unconscious child in an accident when there was a police involved crash at the intersection of Charles Street and Reinartz Boulevard, Reeve said. After Owens cleared the intersection, a driver entered the intersection and was struck by the cruiser driven by Lusk.
Reeve said this scenario is a “common way” for crashes to occur. He said once motorists see a cruiser clear an intersection, they don’t think about another possible cruiser. Even when they hear the sirens, they assume it’s from the first cruiser, he said.
Lusk was cited for not using “due caution” in the intersection, Reeve said.
In the other two accidents on Jan. 7 and Jan. 20, a police cruiser was rear-ended and another was struck by a motorist who ran a stop sign, respectively, Reeve said. He said the only reason a report was made when the cruiser was rear-ended was because there was a prisoner in the cruiser.
When he was a patrol officer, Reeve said he can’t remember ever citing a motorist who didn’t yield to an emergency vehicle with lights and sirens activated. He said officers would rather respond to the emergency, then take the time to cite a motorist. Reeve said in the future, a police officer may follow an ambulance responding to an emergency, and ticket motorists who fail to yield.
“Traffic safety for police officers is very important,” said Reeve, who noted the department recently attended driving safety classes. “It’s a constant concern.”
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BY THE NUMBERS
The number of police officer crashes in the Middletown Division of Police Department:
2017 (as of Feb. 5): 5
SOURCE: Police department records