Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Accident Raises Tension Between Police, Union

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
On Feb. 13, a Capitol Police officer on a motorcycle sped off to stop a car that had run a red light just as a barrier like the one pictured was coming up and he was severely injured.

Each of these checkpoints used to also be outfitted with two Capitol Police cars known as “safety vehicles,” which would, as barriers went up, drive into the street as added protection to halt traffic. These vehicles would often eliminate the need for an officer to drive off in pursuit of a motorist who had run a red light.

The “safety vehicles” were removed from the field last summer, however, and the union subsequently wrote to Reynolds, noting that the barriers by themselves could be hazardous to members of the force.

Reynolds, in addition to denying a correlation between the incident and the change in protocol at the checkpoints, said Monday that the safety vehicles were replaced with new technologies that “have helped us save on the number of officers and vehicles being placed in these positions and provided the department with better security and costs savings.”

But what came to pass Feb. 13 was exactly what the union feared: An officer on a motorcycle sped off to stop a car that had run a red light just as one of the barriers was coming up and he was severely injured.

Had the safety vehicles been in place, there would have been no need for the chase, the union contends, adding that despite Reynold’s version of events, it never heard back from management after sending the July 2012 memo.

When the union meets with Dine on Tuesday, it plans to bring up another issue that might have contributed to the incident: the current configuration of traffic lights. There are two sets of lights at each checkpoint within 25 feet of each other, and the sequences are often out of sync. With the first light flashing “red” and the next “green,” it’s the cause of frequent traffic violations, say union leaders, with motorists running red lights and causing more officers to pursue them — a recipe, they say, for more accidents.

Baboulis suggested management was looking forward to Tuesday’s meeting with hopes that it would include a productive discussion of Capitol Police policy, rather than a rehashing of past tensions.

“The Chief and the [union] have an excellent relationship, have been communicating regularly, and will continue to work together cooperatively moving forward,” she said. “In regards to the recent accident, we look forward to having an open and candid discussion with union representatives to talk to their concerns.”

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