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  1. #1
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    Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle puts out the word to his officers: "Do not drive above the speed limit unless lights and sirens are activated."

    Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle put the word out to his officers Thursday: Do not drive above the speed limit unless lights and sirens are activated.
    The new rules come on the heels of recent controversial driving incidents, including the death last Friday of 10-year-old Cole Berardi, who was struck by an officer driving at least 29 mph over the speed limit on a darkened road. His sirens and emergency lights were not on.
    "This has affected me more than any other situation," Chief Kunkle said during a news conference at police headquarters Thursday.
    "If I could do anything to bring Cole Berardi back, I would. I know the officer involved; his life has been forever changed by this incident."
    Last month, after a chase that ended with an officer seriously injured in a pursuit, Chief Kunkle appointed a panel to review the department's policy on driving in pursuits and in emergency situations.
    He said Cole's death gave him the final impetus to go ahead and issue some changes before the panel completes its work.
    Stan Broome, a lawyer representing a family who sued in a case in which a pedestrian was struck and killed by an officer in 2005, said he was pleased by the changes but that it shouldn't have taken so long.
    "Had someone taken the steps like Chief Kunkle did today following the death of L.V. Daniels Jr., then Cole Berardi would be alive today," Mr. Broome said.
    Video of accident
    Police released a video of the accident Thursday. It shows Senior Cpl. Michael Vaughn driving down a darkened Belt Line Road as he heads to a disturbance where a man was reported to be banging on a door with a gun. In a flash, Cole appears on the screen, and he's almost instantly hit by the squad car.
    The video then shows the officer turning his car around and returning to the scene to search for what he had hit. Cole's bicycle is visible in the foreground.
    The police accident report released Thursday lists speed as a contributing factor in the accident. It states that the speed of Cpl. Vaughn's vehicle ranged from 69 mph to 72 mph at the time of impact. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 40 mph.
    Cpl. Vaughn is on restricted duty. It is not clear what, if any, discipline he will receive. The matter will be referred to a grand jury to determine whether he should face criminal charges.
    Under the new policy, officers will generally be prohibited from traveling faster than 20 mph over the speed limit on major roads and freeways when their lights and sirens are activated, which is called a "Code 3" response.
    Previously, there were no limitations on speed when officers were responding Code 3.
    Officers also will be required to observe the posted speed limit in residential neighborhoods and school zones even when their lights and sirens are activated under a Code 3. They have also been ordered to slow down at intersections to make sure they are clear before running a stop sign or light.
    When responding to nonemergency calls, police will be required to travel the posted speed limit and obey traffic laws.
    Previously, the policy was less explicit. It stated that officers should "proceed with the normal traffic flow and obey all traffic control devices and signals" when driving without lights and sirens. Limitations on speed could be interpreted several ways, and some officers have said that department has always urged officers to get to a call as quickly as possible.
    "We do not want our officers speeding, violating any traffic laws, unless they are doing it with their lights and sirens on," Chief Kunkle said.
    Change in mind-set
    The department will also attempt to get officers to change the way they think about going to Code 3 -- commanders want officers to be more willing to act under Code 3, and, once at Code 3, have a more tempered response to how they go about their business.
    "We're saying that it's OK to go Code 3 if you have to," said Assistant Chief Floyd Simpson, who oversees the city's seven patrol stations.
    Officers also will be allowed to exceed the 20-mph limit in limited circumstances: when another officer is in immediate danger or when they are authorized to be involved in a pursuit. The policy also states that there may be other times when it is necessary to go faster than that, but that "officers are not relieved of their responsibility to exercise due regard for the safety of all persons."
    Representatives of the department's police associations, who flanked the chief as he made the announcement, said they support the latest changes.
    "I think it can save lives and keep officers, as well as the citizens of the Dallas, safe," said Sgt. Sheldon Smith, executive vice president of the Black Police Association.

  2. #2
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    Well that's a pretty common sense policy. Of course we all should be slowing or stopping for red lights, uncontrolled intersections, and stop signs. Of course we shouldn't be speeding to calls when our emergency lights aren't on.
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

    "The Wicked Flee When No Man Pursueth: But The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion".

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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmur5074 View Post
    Well that's a pretty common sense policy. Of course we all should be slowing or stopping for red lights, uncontrolled intersections, and stop signs. Of course we shouldn't be speeding to calls when our emergency lights aren't on.
    I'm not saying I disagree with the Chief here. This is a total tragedy. I do think, however, that there ought to be a few exceptions within his policy.

    While I agree with you, I can think of plenty of times when an officer-- especially in a busier area with a wide variety of routine calls, frequent emergencies, and everything in between--may need to exceed the speed limit while not running code. A restrictive code policy like some I've seen along with a no-leeway speed policy leaves a lot of middle ground. My last agency defined Code 2 response as urgent, no lights and sirens. Policy, however, dictated that we would NOT exceed speed limits unless we were emergent. This essentially made a Code 2 response the same as a routine response, or normal driving. I am a definite proponent of three levels of priority driving...routine, Code 2/Urgent, and Code 3/Emergent. When all you have is emergent or routine, you have a lot of guys that push the envelope with "Code 2 and a half", defined as elevated speed, not quite stopping when they should, and busting intersections. This is often done without emergency equipment, or very limited use, ie flipping on the lights for less than a second just to say they did while busting a red, because they don't want to get hosed for violating policy and chance being seen by some administrator turning on his lights when it isn't authorized. The officers 99% of the time have good intentions, and rightly so. We don't, as some sheeple would argue, just drive like assholes for no reason. Not providing officers with adequate policy protection for stressful driving conditions is a recipe for disaster. Eventually, some copper will get his nuts chopped off for not using his lights to bust a stop sign to go and cover his buddy who is with a subject he KNOWS will fight with the cops, getting into a fender bender in the process. The policy forbade a code 3 response. If the policy had included a clause allowing the officer to bust intersections with due regard using his lights/siren, drive at a slightly elevated speed (even just 10-15mph or less), it MIGHT not have happened.

    For example, my current agency prioritizes incidents as Priority 1-3. 3 are non-priority calls/incidents. P2 are elevated and require a routine or urgent (Code 2) response. P1s are emergencies and the officer can run urgent or emergent (Code 3) at his discretion. Code 2/Urgent response is defined: "If the call is urgent, officers may need to travel at a higher rate of speed to reach the destination while still driving with due regard for the safety of the public. Officers should display their rear flashing lights if traveling above the speed limit." It is followed soonafter with, "In accordance with State and Municipal Ordinances, officers have the discretion to use lights and siren OR lights only in emergency responses. The use of the siren is required unless an articulable reason can be provided."

    That policy is specifically for situations that don't warrant a code run, but are time sensitive or have the possibility of going awry. For example, a disturbance brewing with known weapons in the residence, an officer finding out a party he is in contact with is wanted, etc. We could all name a dozen examples. We exceed the limit, and we may bust red lights and stop signs (with due regard), but don't run emergent.

    I understand the Chief's reaction, but there should be something in there about being able to shut down early or use lights only, etc. while responding to emergency calls like burgs, robberies, etc. I would hate to see a cop get jammed up for shutting down and coming in blacked out two blocks from a burg in progress and hitting something/someone. You can drive with due regard all you want, but sometimes there's just nothing to prevent someone from stepping out in front of your car, no matter how careful you are.

    Also, while I agree wholeheartedly with the school zone section, I also wish they would leave an exception to the residential speed restriction. I would venture to bet that some entire beats in Dallas are considered "residential". They should use wording like "officers will generally obey" the speed limit while code 3 in residential areas, followed by something like "this policy is not intended to completely prohibit officers from using prudent decision making in articulable circumstances"...i.e. if the officer can articulate the need to drive faster than the limit code 3 in a residential area, then he should be free to do so. Articulable reasons could be known threats to human life. Instead of a robbery in progress, how about a robbery with shots fired? Something above and beyond even a "regular" emergency call? In this case, however, I wouldn't mind a policy making it forbidden to drive above the posted limit in residential areas without emergency equipment activated.

    I dunno...I might be saying this in a complicated way. I guess I just get nervous when blanket policies are handed down, even if I completely understand the reasons why.
    "If anything worthwhile comes of this tragedy, it should be the realization by every citizen that often the only thing that stands between them and losing everything they hold dear... is the man wearing a badge." -- Ronald Reagan, in the wake of the deaths of 4 CHP troopers in the Newhall Incident, 1970

    The opinions given in my posts DO NOT reflect the opinions, views, policies, and/or procedures of my employing agency. They are my personal opinions only, thereby releasing my agency of any liability, or involvement in anything posted under the username "121Traffic" on O/R.

  4. #4
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    It is my impression that all this may have been partially caused by policy to begin with...

    One Dallas officer I talked to about a year ago stated that they were required to obtain permission to run Code 3 (lights & siren) yet they could exceed the speed limit without declaring Code 3 - So guess what.

    However they were forbidden to give chase for less than a violent felony. But responding without lights & siren to a fixed address versus chasing a moving car was ok. On the other hand, they were allowed to overtake a moving car without lights & sirens, as long as it was simply overtaking them. But they couldn't use lights & siren, because that would be running Code 3 without permission.

    At least I think that was approximately the way it was stated to me - I was honestly too busy rolling my eyes to remember it all, and the officer I was talking to was too pissed to explain it fully.

    I think the bottom line is that Dallas has a policy book a foot thick, but it still has way more accidents than all the 'burbs put together.

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    Dallas is ridiculous and so is there Chief. I disagree with this for reasons that 121Traffic stated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmur5074 View Post
    Of course we all should be slowing or stopping for red lights, uncontrolled intersections, and stop signs. Of course we shouldn't be speeding to calls when our emergency lights aren't on.
    You are a patrol officer. You work the area near Interstate 95. You get a call of a silent bank alarm one half hour before the bank closes. You are within 2 minutes of the bank. Dispatch calls the bank and receives no answer, which is unusual. This bank is close to I-95, where the potential suspects could hop on I-95 and escape fairly quickly.

    Your policy states you can only break traffic laws when you have LIGHTS AND SIREN on.

    You are now approximately one mile from the bank. You are on a city street with mostly businesses and the speed limit is 25 mph. Remember, according to policy you can only speed when your LIGHTS AND SIREN are on. What do you do?

    Do you (pick one):

    A) Continue to drive 25 mph, obeying all traffic laws without using your lights and siren

    B) Increase your speed to 40 mph (15 mph over the posted speed limit), with no lights or siren.

    C) Use your Lights and siren in accordance with policy and increase your speed to 40 mph.


    Put me down for "B."

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    jmur5074's Avatar
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    A police department having a policy requiring use of your siren anytime you have your lights on is asinine. But speeding without having your lights on puts anything that happens on your ass, whether it's right or not. The media and public will flame you, and your dept. could very well hang you out to dry.

    I'll be honest, I skimmed the article for key points mostly. If it says their new policy requires lights AND siren, then yeah, that's retarded. My post above never mentioned sirens, only lights...so I must have missed that point in the article.

    As for your question Brad, I'd go with none of the above. I'd turn my lights on only, and step up my speed...a code 2 response. Because having a policy requiring both lights and siren is, as previously stated...retarded.

    That's the problem with this profession. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you ONLY can choose from the options brad gives, you're going to civilly or criminal liable when you smoke somebody crossing the street, or you're going to violate department policy, or your going to do a dis-service to the people you're sworn to protect.

    Just like catching traffic violators. I was taught not to turn your lights on until you catch up to the violator because you don't want them to take the gap between you and them as an opportunity to flee if they see your red lights on while your 5 blocks behind. THEN, we're taught in EVOC anytime we drive over the speed limit without our lights on, we're liable for any accidents that happen as a result. Catch-22
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

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    Terminator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMur5074
    A police department having a policy requiring use of your siren anytime you have your lights on is asinine.
    There are quite a few states which law (not policy) requires you to have your LIGHTS AND SIREN on to break any traffic laws, and be covered, legally. How do I know? North Carolina is one of them. And I've been in on duty wrecks. The first question the State Troopers here always ask is "did you have your lights and siren on?" In fact, motor vehicles do not legally have to stop for blue lights here. They do have to stop for blue lights AND SIREN however.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMur5074
    As for your question Brad, I'd go with none of the above. I'd turn my lights on only, and step up my speed...a code 2 response.
    Not an option in the given scenario. Pick one of the three! In this case your policy requires lights and siren to exceed the posted speed limit.

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    I think people are going to weigh in on either side of this depending on what where they patrol looks like.

    Around here, a siren is telling everyone you are coming. Sometimes that is desired, sometimes not.

    I despise policies that take the decision out of the hands of the cop in the car.
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    One final scenario. You're patrolling the ghetto at 2:30 AM. You have a patrol car with LED lights. Little to no traffic. The speed limit is 25 mph. You receive a call of a burglary in progress. Suspect trying to gain entry into the residence.

    You are the closest car and en route. You are now approximately 3 city blocks away (3 stop signs). Do you:

    A) Continue to drive 25 mph, stop at all three stop signs, without using your lights and siren until you arrive.

    B) Increase your speed to 40 mph (15 mph over the posted speed limit) and slowly roll through all three stop signs with no lights or siren, until you arrive.

    C) Use your lights and siren in accordance with policy, stop at all three stop signs, clearing the intersections, and increase your speed to 40 mph until you arrive.

    D) Use your (LED) lights, slowly rolling through all three stop signs, and increase your speed to 40 mph until you arrive.



    Put me down for "B."

    I'm not posting this to bust your balls, by any means. I'm just trying to make the point that sometimes in police work black and white doesn't work, and thinking outside of the box, and possibly violating a policy, is required to do the job more effectively. And that's what Chief David Knucklehead doesn't get.

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    jmur5074's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terminator View Post
    There are quite a few states which law (not policy) requires you to have your LIGHTS AND SIREN on to break any traffic laws, and be covered, legally. How do I know? North Carolina is one of them. And I've been in on duty wrecks. The first question the State Troopers here always ask is "did you have your lights and siren on?" In fact, motor vehicles do not legally have to stop for blue lights here. They do have to stop for blue lights AND SIREN however.

    That's ridiculous.

    Both scenarios you're very close to the scene of the crime, I'm not turning my lights AND siren on because that's retarded, and I'm not violating policy; especially when it comes to driving.

    First one, I'm going with "A" (2 minutes on the freeway is not far) and the second one I'm going with "D"
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terminator View Post
    You are a patrol officer. You work the area near Interstate 95. You get a call of a silent bank alarm one half hour before the bank closes. You are within 2 minutes of the bank. Dispatch calls the bank and receives no answer, which is unusual. This bank is close to I-95, where the potential suspects could hop on I-95 and escape fairly quickly.

    Your policy states you can only break traffic laws when you have LIGHTS AND SIREN on.

    You are now approximately one mile from the bank. You are on a city street with mostly businesses and the speed limit is 25 mph. Remember, according to policy you can only speed when your LIGHTS AND SIREN are on. What do you do?

    Do you (pick one):

    A) Continue to drive 25 mph, obeying all traffic laws without using your lights and siren

    B) Increase your speed to 40 mph (15 mph over the posted speed limit), with no lights or siren.

    C) Use your Lights and siren in accordance with policy and increase your speed to 40 mph.


    Put me down for "B."
    Choose A and after the 15th time the news reports you were unable to respond quickly due to Dept Regulations the public will be out to lynch the Chief.


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    In Texas, the TC says that we must use audible or visual signals unless, in our judgement, it will tip off offenders (as in loosing drug evidence or escalating a domestic violence situation), have the potential of causing more accidents than it prevents (from people scrambling to get out of the way), or we feel that it might extend the chase.

    In general, I think I would want to use lights & sirens until I got a mile or so away, then switch to lights only. On traffic stops, no lights until we overtake the vehicle, then switch on the lights. If they run, it's lights & siren all the way.

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    Virginia state law requires lights and sirens to drive exempt from traffic code. Stupid.
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