Vehicle collisions biggest threat to officers

By Michael Dresser
for the Baltimore Sun

When we think about police dying in the line of duty, we tend to flash to a thought of a criminal maliciously gunning down an officer.

But a more common fate for law enforcement officers is to be killed in a vehicle collision. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, as of last week there had been 70 officers killed nationwide in vehicle incidents compared with 54 killed by gunfire in 2010. Crash fatalities among officers were up 49 percent over the same period in 2009. The majority are killed in crashes involving a single moving vehicle.

The Baltimore Police Department has lost two of its own to such crashes in recent months. In September, Officer James E. Fowler III died when his Chevy truck went off a road in central Pennsylvania while on his way to a police training course at Penn State University. Less than a month later, Officer Thomas Portz Jr. was killed when his patrol car ran into a fire engine parked on U.S. 40 while responding to a call.

There is no denying these officers’ service. Nor is there any doubt about the tragedy of their deaths. But now that the funerals are over, it would be a mistake to brush aside the disturbing questions raised by these crashes. Not about two individuals but about the police department’s training and culture when it comes to operating motor vehicles.

Read the rest on the Baltimore Sun’s website.