What happens when citizens are seriously injured in accidents by law enforcement or emergency first responders? Should someone be held responsible even if the public servant is just doing his or her job? There are guidelines in place when an emergency responder or law enforcement officer speeds through town with sirens blaring to get to the aid of those in need as quickly as possible. Training in safety procedures is provided to these public servants. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that a private citizen may be injured and possibly impacted for life in a car accident.
When a Cincinnati police officer struck a pedestrian on Nov. 9, he allegedly was on his way to assist a fellow officer who had two people at gunpoint when he hit a young woman crossing the street. The 36-year-old woman who was crossing at a non-crosswalk is now in University Hospital Medical Center in critical condition.
It appears as if the officer was not following all of the safety guidelines. He was allegedly going 50 mph in a 25 mph zone. While officers can exceed the speed limit, the guidelines allow them to go only 20 mph over the speed limit in emergency response situations, and they must have their lights and sirens on. In defense of the officer, the police chief says that officers who are in response mode aren’t checking their speedometer, but are focusing on controlling their vehicle and getting to their destination.
However, some things about this accident don’t seem to add up. The young woman, who can only move her hands and arms, allegedly asked her mother why she would have gone into the middle of the street if she had heard sirens and saw lights. Additionally, while the video camera in the officer’s cruiser reflects that the lights and sirens were going when the car pulled out of a parking lot on its pursuit, the camera stopped recording right before the accident and resumed recording just three minutes later. In addition, city cameras set to auto-pan for some reason did not record the accident either.
A thorough investigation is expected to take place. Victims of accidents caused by public servants, even in the line of duty, are innocent participants. They have every right to expect to be compensated for their suffering and injuries.
Source: Wcpo.com, “Cincinnati Police Officer Orlando Smith exceeded speed limit by 20 mph, apparently violating policy” Kareem Elgazzar, Nov. 10, 2013