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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Have you ever seen a police car dart past you on the highway without its emergency lights on, thinking it wasn't fair for the officer to be able to do that? Have you ever wondered if those reckless police officers caused an accident?

A new investigative report about crashes involving law enforcement by the Orlando Sentinel discovered some pretty disturbing statistics.

The report found that in Florida from 2006 to 2010, law enforcement vehicles were involved in about 7,400 — or one out of every 44 — crashes each year. Considering that police are supposed to protect public safety, these figures are certainly surprising.

The report goes on to reveal some other startling findings. The Sentinel found that during this period, "crashes involving officers caused more than $126 million in property damage," not including "medical expenses or legal claims paid to people who were hurt or the families of those killed." About 20 people are killed each year and about 2,400 people are injured by crashes involving law enforcement.

Those numbers might be justifiable — although not entirely excusable — if these accidents occurred during high-speed chases or emergency situations, but the report found that most of these accidents happened under normal driving conditions.

The data also revealed that officers involved in these accidents were rarely ticketed for their transgressions, even if they were at fault. While average drivers are ticketed 64 percent of the time, law enforcement officers "are cited less than 11 percent of the time," the report said.

So, not only is the reckless driving of police officers causing needless accidents, but they are getting away with it without penalty. For a group of individuals with as much power as police and law enforcement officers, this has some serious systematic repercussions for our safety.

Cops are not and should not be above the law; otherwise, what is the point in having laws in the first place?

Perhaps we should allow some privileges to law enforcement officials if they are genuinely trying to protect public safety. However, the idea of offering near immunity for these actions have absolutely no rational justifications.

Paul Sireci, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, agreed that the statistics were "concerning," but said that it was not a high number, given the approximate 51,000 police officers in the state.

To be fair, this is just one report and it would be inappropriate to make sweeping accusations against all police officers from these numbers.

However, this should make all of us a little more wary of the power of law enforcement, especially in the sense that there appears to be hardly any accountability for accidents they cause.

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