I guess this was coming ever since NOPD updated the disciplinary penalty matrix (Chapt. 26.2.1). First, let me take this opportunity to say that the old adage that you can’t help if you don’t get there is true. Secondly, and easily as important, wear your seatbelt. It may be uncomfortable or you may feel like it slows you down when exiting the vehicle, but there is no doubt that seatbelts save lives and it could be yours that gets saved. You could be exercising all of the care and diligence possible and still find yourself involved in an accident. You will be better off wearing your seatbelt. Finally, don’t leave loose items lying around that can interfere with your ability to drive. You should be thinking clipboards, shoulder mics, and the like.
All that being said, it used to be the case that everyone deemed to have been in an at-fault accident would eventually be summoned before the Accident Review Board. The vast majority of those people would get a Letter of Reprimand. Usually, one or two people would be deemed to not be at fault and one would get slammed, Those days are gone.
I attended the Accident Review Board today. What I learned is that for those minor, first-offense accidents, the driver was offered a negotiated settlement. If accepted, the negotiated settlement resulted in a letter of reprimand. If the officer did not accept the negotiated settlement, then the officer was ordered to attend the Accident Review Board (“ARB”).
At today’s ARB, two people were found to be not at fault. One was responding to a 108 and had the right-of-way, traveling at a reasonable speed. The other was also traveling at about the speed limit and bottomed out on a defective roadway. One person got a LOR because the damage was only to one rim. The remainder got at least a 1-day suspension for first offenses, a 5-day suspension for second offenses, and a 10-day suspension for third offenses.
What does this mean for you? If you are offered a negotiated settlement for an accident you know you were at fault in, you should probably take the negotiated settlement. An example might be a backing accident or striking a parked car. If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to call me. I will help you make a determination of the best course of action. If you know the accident is a second or third offense, make sure to call and let me know about the ARB so you can keep the FOP’s Salary Reimbursement Option in play. Don’t assume someone else has already called.
As a reminder, the FOP’s Salary Reimbursement Option (“SRO”) will repay you for up to 5 suspension days at $150/day for cases you are not going to appeal. However, it is required that you be represented by an FOP attorney. If you don’t want to call me for some reason, call one of the others. Bur, it is not unusual for me to represent everyone who appears before the ARB like I did today. I spent my last 4 years on the job as Commander of Traffic Fatality Investigations. So, I have some experience with the subject matter.
As usual, the FOP is looking out for you. In addition, the FOP provides benefits which are unmatched by any other organization. 90% of active officers belong to the FOP. Take advantage of the benefits you pay for. If you are part of the 10% who don’t belong to the FOP, consider joining. The benefits are worth it. You may feel like you will never need them, but you never know, It is better to be prepared. Maybe you can be lucky enough to never need the legal services – maybe. However, everyone eventually makes use of the guaranteed death benefit. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone.