Thursday, August 05, 2010

Police Seatbelt Usage

How many times have we seen it. A police officer not wearing his seatbelt, while he watched for a chance to ticket someone for not wearing theirs. We could start an entire blog on stories of police failing to follow the very laws they enforce upon us, but for this entry, I'll try and stick with the news story I read and wanted to pass along.

Police officers not wearing their seatbelt while driving an automobile. It turns out that the various laws supposedly passed to save our lives, which make seatbelt use compulsory under penalty of fines, aren't being followed by the police with the predictable results. Yes, the number of police officers who have died in the "line of duty" is increasing, even in single car accidents, which means they don't run into, or aren't run into by another car. In 24% of those accidents, the occupant of the car was ejected, read that to mean thrown clear of the car during the crash, thus demonstrating quite definitively that the officer was not wearing his seatbelt.

Now, the snickers about hypocrisy aside, lets discuss this as a cost to the community. Besides the loss of a rather expensive automobile purchased by the taxpayer, we have the cost of training a replacement officer, the lost expense of training the now deceased officer, and the cost of the life insurance.

If the officer is only injured, then we the taxpayer may well be stuck paying for that officer for life in the vein of disability. Is that fair? Line of duty to me means that you are doing what you're supposed to be doing. In other words, you're doing the job the way you're supposed to, in obedience to policy, regulations, and laws pertaining to whatever action you are currently engaged in. If you are responding to an armed robbery, your response should be within clearly defined departmental policies, regulations, and the applicable state and local laws for your actions.

If your death or disability results from your failure to follow policy, procedures, or laws, should the taxpayer be stuck with the expense? I find it hard to believe but the answer from most people would be to excuse the blatant stupidity of the police in this matter. I say blatant stupidity, because that is the way I have long characterized those who don't use seatbelt's. I'm opposed to laws which mandate their usage, under the belief that a fool will find a way to mangle himself without my attention. However, I remember when those laws were being debated, police officers talked about how tired they were of responding to and cleaning up fatal traffic accidents in which a seatbelt could have saved the lives of the occupants of the cars.

Yet, now, some thirty years later, the police are the ones not wearing their seatbelts, because I can only assume they want to be ready to leap from the car in foot pursuit of a bad guy. How long does it take to unfasten a seatbelt? When you're in pursuit of a vehicle, are you really serving the citizenry by being untethered to the car?

It's a shame that we're not allowed to take a photograph of the police officer not wearing his seatbelt, and thus endangering him or herself, on the roads in direct violation of the law, and see that the officer is similarly fined. I think it's the height of irresponsibility for police to operate a vehicle without a seatbelt, and further feel that any accidents or injuries should be excluded from "line of duty" coverage.

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