The Knoxville Police Department has announced that officers will no longer respond to the majority of minor crashes without injuries in order to prioritize serious calls.
According to KPD Chief Paul Noel, the procedural change is intended to free up officers for higher-priority calls after data showed that officers spent a cumulative of 24 hours a day working minor crashes.
The KPD added that they would only respond if a car is disabled in the middle of the road and requires a tow truck.
The Tennessee department listed the scenarios they will respond to, including crashes resulting in injury or death, those involving an intoxicated, unlicensed or uninsured driver, an uncooperative or disorderly party, or in the case of hit-and-run accidents or damage to other property.
The department still advised residents to call 9-1-1 or the non-emergency line to report an accident and let dispatch decide whether it qualifies for a police response.
Noel said that attending to minor crashes often diverts officers from dealing with critical issues facing the community.
“Minor, non-injury crashes occupy a lot of our officers’ time and minimize our ability to respond more quickly to higher priority calls or conduct proactive traffic enforcement initiatives to actually prevent serious crashes from happening,” Chief Noel said in a press release. “We want to recapture that time so that we can focus our efforts on being visible in city neighborhoods and addressing violent crime.”
The KPD advised drivers involved in a minor crash without injuries to first move their car out of the road to a safe location and then exchange information and take cell phone videos.
Police say people are required to complete a personal accident report with the Tennessee Department of Safety within 20 days of the event if the cost of the damage is valued at more than $400.
The policy change comes as the department emphasizes the need for more community policing.
“Community policing is more than just going to a community meeting. It’s about problem-solving, building long-lasting relationships,” Chief Noel stated. “This is about getting 24 hours more per day for our officers to be able to do that.”
Noel added that the new policy would help the department work around a staffing shortage as around one in 10 positions remain unfilled.
“This is really a minor change to our operations so that we can focus more narrowly on what is essential to our core mission as a department. This is also just a small piece of a larger strategic vision. We are taking a close look at how, when and where officers are deployed so that we can more effectively address higher priority public safety issues and concerns,” Noel explained.
The policy comes into effect on September 1, 2022.