Saturday, September 23, 2006

AMHERST POLICE DISCUSS CRASH

On Friday afternoon the Amherst Police Department released the dash Cam video from last weekend’s crash to the media. During the press conference Amherst Police Lt. Joseph Kucirek spoke about the traffic stop, the crash and the policy of pursuits.

The Stop
The officer who initiated the stop is on the left side of Mr. Stern’s vehicle and the K-9 officer is on the right side. During the conversation between Mr. Stern and the officer, heard on the video, the officer was asking him about insurance cards, at one point Stern said he couldn’t find it but the officer asked Stern what the Geiko card was in his hand. A moment later the officer asked Stern if he could step out of the vehicle, Stern quickly replied no. Stern told he officer that there was no reason for him to get out of the car. The officer advised him that he wanted to speak further with him and then advised that by law he can have anybody step out of a vehicle during a traffic stop. Stern continued to argue with the officer, at this point the K9 officer is seen on tape going back to his vehicle to retrieve a slim-jim, a device used to unlock a car door. The first officer continues to speak with Stern while the K9 officer is away from the vehicle. During that conversation Stern suggested that the officer had followed him looking for a reason to pull him over, an accusation that the officer denied to Stern. Stern told the officer that he was on his way to his dad’s house on Narragansett in Lorain. When the K9 officer got back to the passenger side of Sterns vehicle you can seen in the video the brake lights light up and then Stern begins to pull away. As Stern begins to pull away the first officer strikes the driver’s side window twice with his flashlight, breaking it on the second hit but Stern is able to pull away from the officers.

The pursuit
As Stern pulled away from the stop both officers got in their cars to follow Stern to attempt to stop him again. Believing that Mr. Stern was impaired they felt he was a danger on the roadways. The speeds of the officer’s cars were approximately 50 to 60mph. You are able to see towards the end of the tape that Stern speeds up and pulls away from the officers. During the pursuit the first officer remains calm giving his speed and road conditions to the dispatcher. The officer is also heard advising that the traffic light. The police calculated the speed of Sterns truck to be a minimum of 65mph at the point of impact.

The Officers Involved
As far as the officers and their involvement, obviously any use of force or pursuits, or any use of physical use of force is investigated by the department administratively. That investigation took place and there was no wrong doing found on behalf of the initiating officer or the supervisor that night. In fact had they chose not to do anything after the driver left the scene they would have most likely faced disciplinary actions for failing to intervene in a suspected impaired driver.

Pursuit Policy
The policy is very detailed, but basically for normal chases where people don’t want to pull over a lot of things come into play. The condition of the vehicle they are pursuing, the condition of their own vehicle, have they suffered any damage, the time of day, the traffic conditions, the road conditions, if the suspect is believed to be a juvenile or not, all these things play a factor. In this incident, the officers were found to be polite at the time of the traffic stop, they were in control of their adrenaline during the pursuit and they were relaying the road conditions, they were relaying the speed, they were relaying the traffic conditions as per policy.
When a driver is impaired we have an exception to our policy that states that you have to do something to try and intervene and that is what these officers were doing. An impaired driver, historically and especially recently the publics had an outcry for law enforcement, the courts and the justice system to do something with impaired drivers.
A question came up of the legality of getting the slim-jim and forcing their way into the car and even breaking out the window. The courts have upheld that law enforcement has the right to up their force on a resistance, he was not complying with the officers, the officers took it up one level and attempted to use a slim-jim to get into the vehicle and that failed, the officer when the driver put the car into drive tried to break out the window and was going to go hands on with the driver and try to do something, open the door, keep him from leaving, that was unsuccessful. The only thing that they had left to do at that point was to do nothing or to get in their cars and use their lights and sirens to warn traffic and attempt to get the driver to stop.


I think the one good thing about bringing this to the media is that some people will see the end results and think twice before fleeing from the police. A DUI charge or even a second DUI charge is a lot less then an aggravated vehicular homicide charge. As you know the DUI statistics have gone down because it’s been so tough, the system has been so tough on DUI drivers and the courts have been so tough and law enforcement has been so tough on DUI drivers that DUI accidents and alcohol related crashes have gone down in our area for sure. So it is having a positive effect the bad part is that things like this still do happen.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

TMC news... you continue to do an excellent job reporting on this issue. This is very sensitive and I am glad to see the respect you have shown with it.
I was interested to learn one of the Amherst PD officers was Officer Perez. About 3 years ago, Officer Perez stopped me for speeding. While I do not enjoy being stopped, the interaction with Officer Perez has remained very prominent with me. At 4am in the morning, the traffic stop conducted by Officer Perez was one of the most professional interactions that I have ever seen. He was polite, courteous and respectful, while still competent and enforcing the rules. It is sad to see that this officer has had to endure this type of incident. Officer Perez is a model officer!!!!

4:01 PM  
Anonymous mike from sheffield said...

I have to be honest, I was one of the people who blamed the cops, or put partial blame on the cops in the begining. After seeing the tape here and reading this story I have turned around completely. I apologize to the Amherst Police for my comments before. Officer Perez had far more patience then I think i would have had with the drunk driver.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Mike, I was also one that quickly looked at the police and asked why they went after the guy. I watched the video about 4 or 5 times and listened very closely and I was very impressed by the officer and how he kept his cool and professionalism. my hats off to you officer perez.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These Police Officers did exactly what they should have done. There have been editorials about the high speed chase and that others thought they should have let it be. If you are one of those people ask your self this question. What if they did let it be and he killed someone anyway then who's to blame? People tend to forget that police officers put them selves at risk every day, walk a day in thier shoes. Bottom line the driver should have not been driving period. He chose to, and HE not the officer killed an innocent victom. We should be thanking the police not critisizing what they do.

1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew Phil Stern in high school. It was pretty obvious that he would end up this way. He was very pompous and seemed to get away with a lot back then. However, I never thought he would kill anyone.

8:49 AM  

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