New Haven, CT Pedestrian Struck by a Police Vehicle Cries Foul when Junior Officers are put in Charge of Accident Investigation
Sometimes, unlikely events occur. Getting struck by a police cruiser on a street just blocks from the Police Department falls into that category. Having the Assistant Police Chief( Officer Melendez) behind the wheel at the time adds to the misfortune. Losing consciousness at the scene and being removed by ambulance with head and facial injuries only to awake from the fog of it all to find out that the accident investigation is likely being carried out by officers, junior in rank to the Assistant Chief with no evident referral to the State Police or some other mechanism offering a higher indicia of reliability as to the eventual findings and investigative deliberative process borders on the incomprehensible. That, however, is exactly what seems to have happened in the case of a recent client whose Family simply contacted my office to look into what may have happened and take any appropriate steps to pursue a personal injury claim on his behalf should the facts so warrant.
Well, what started out like any other preliminary legal investigative effort involving a police investigation where the role of Legal Counsel is largely confined to waiting on the sidelines beyond what limited physical and scene evidence could be readily obtained by our own investigators morphed into an inexplicable Front page News Headline. Accidents involving Police vehicles more often are the result of high speed chases, sometimes on busy highways or through populated residential areas. The decision to give chase is sometimes a hasty one and can involve split second discretion on the part of the officer on the scene. Depending upon the severity of the suspected crime, it is harder to retrospectively be too harsh upon such an officer or Department if clear polices and procedures were in place and observed for such an irregular yet foreseeable occurrence. In a number of such improper vehicle chases serious and/or fatal car accidents have occurred which have given rise to wrongful death claims and multi million dollar settlements and verdicts.
My client will live and hopefully his injuries will not prove to be too grievous nor long term. It would appear, however, that, his ability to take comfort in the results of a clearly impartial and objective Police investigation will not fare as well, whatever the conclusions of Fact that may be contained therein. As reported by the Editor for the New Haven Independent, Paul Bass, the Police Department made and disclosed on scene an early determination of fault, kept the investigation in house and then waited two months to release the report. A Captain who essentially interrogated the Victim’s Mother who simply went to pick up a copy of the report seems to have hastened the release of the report. Connecticut has seen its share of Public disregard for the impressions of the general Public which they are sworn to govern. My Law office has and continues to work with a variety of former Police and Law enforcement personnel in a number of the civil injury cases which we pursue. They are an honorable and well schooled bunch who would never, if put in a similar situation, compromise the appearance of integrity for the important work they do. Probably an ill informed decision made at some level above, perhaps for political or career related concerns and not by line troops who would likely only wanted to secure the scene for an alternative Police jurisdiction to take over. In point of Fact, in my professional medical malpractice case work, I have seen the same arrogant and above the law mentality prevail, sometimes involving distinguished medical personnel or health care institutions who would rather bury their patients or at least the truth of what may have occurred than face public ridicule and loss of reputation not to mention lawsuit exposure. Sad, but true.