NYPD Cruiser Carnage: Move Along, Nothing to See Here

alg_car2.jpgPhoto: Daily News

Police, witness and media accounts vary — widely — as to what exactly happened in the East Village yesterday afternoon. The NYPD version goes something like this:

Two officers responding to a call to help another officer were proceeding north on Avenue D with lights and sirens. Near E. 5th Street, the cruiser collided with a white Cadillac, which was pulling out of a driveway. The cruiser then jumped the curb and struck several pedestrians. Two people were hit when the officer driving the car swerved to avoid a baby carriage. Five pedestrians, including the baby and mother, the two officers in the cruiser, and a driver and passenger in the other car were hospitalized with minor injuries. The most seriously hurt person was a 33-year-old man who suffered a broken leg and a gash on his head.

Miraculously, no one was killed yesterday. But as you can see in the WPIX story after the jump, the scene of a crash is rarely as antiseptic as phrases like "treated and released" make it sound. 

At least one report says the investigation into the incident is continuing, as is no doubt the case. But will the public be fully informed of the findings? And what of reports by multiple witnesses who say the cruiser was traveling at up
to 50 mph, that there were no lights or sirens, or that passersby who
urged officers to assist victims other than their colleagues were told to
"Shut the fuck up"? Will these witnesses be vetted, with appropriate action taken to avoid such mistakes, if they in fact occurred, in the future? How about claims by residents that police routinely speed on Avenue D? Will the department at least crack down on non-emergency dangerous driving to lessen the possibility of future injuries and deaths?

These are rhetorical questions, of course. As we saw in Brooklyn last month, even when an innocent bystander is killed during the course of what witnesses say was clearly a police chase, NYPD can simply declare that no pursuit occurred. Given the near-universal lack of effort by police and prosecutors when a civilian runs down some poor schlub in the street, what can we expect when it’s one of their own behind the wheel?

The WPIX reporter said of yesterday’s crash: "The first police unit that arrived took the officers, and left behind everybody else who was bleeding on the street." When it comes to traffic safety and enforcement, you’ll hardly find a more suitable illustration of NYPD priorities.

  • The NYPD’s claim that sirens and lights were going when so many witnesses say they were not is down right ridiculous. Then the cops telling bystanders asking them to assist hurt citizens to “shut the **** up” is just outrageous. How is it that NYPD can get away with so much and the nothing is ever done to correct the situation? It is acts like these that has made me lose respect for cops and suspicious about anything they say or do. Even though this whole situation is the fault of the NYPD and the city’s lack of doing anything about the behavior of those bad cops( I do believe that some cops are good), but we as citizens are also to blame as well for not standing up and making sure our elected officials do something about this. After all this is a government for the people by the people(at least I like to think so).

  • J:Lai

    The official NYPD version is full of lies.
    I would bet that a big part of the reason witnesses were told to “shut the fuck up” was because the cops on the scene were coordinating their stories for the official (false) version.

  • James

    It’s been said many times before but bears repeating: the NYPD is the missing link in the livable streets movement, and until they are with the program, any positive changes we pull off will be at the margins, at best. In this particular case, they come off like a bunch of honorless thugs, leaving injured civilians at the site while tending only to their own. Shame.

  • cookie crumb

    I read a continuous drip drip of stories of the police being a group apart from the community it’s meant to protect and serve. To wit the story f the woman with the sick pug in the subway – the police should have helped her and been polite – not scaring her and escalating her obvious distress with threats and force! This is not a police state but the police themselves increasingly act with unchecked authoritarianism. Their credibility continues to plummet in my estimation – we all witness very routinely police cars not only speeding without sirens or lights, but running red lights, stop signs, doing illegal U-turns, turning without ever indicating (I don’t think any police cars have working indicators) – all without lights and sirens. If numerous witnesses said they neither heard nor saw sirens and lights – and the car pulling out did so because he didn’t see or hear sirens – then it was more than just an accident and the police should be prosecuted for reckless endangerment. We all know the chances of that happening are very remote – all the while, the police turns it’s vindictive penny ante bullshit and ticketing payola against normal you and me – the decent, law abiding, tax paying general public.

  • J-Uptown

    The NYPD has lost nearly all credibility, in my opinion. The cops have a very entrenched culture of being above the law. It is evident in their disregard of traffic laws, the regular use of excessive force, and the outrageous and unabashed lies used to cover up after themselves. As citizens, we must have video proof of bad cop behavior to get anything done. Often, this is still not enough.

    The change starts from the top, with Ray Kelly replaced by someone who can actually keep cops in line. The notion that cops protect cops is as stupid as it is harmful to the city, and it provides shelter for cops to do nearly anything they want until Ray Kelly says it’s too much. Cops should be beholden to the people they supposedly serve, not Ray Kelly.

  • This accident is an avoidable tragedy.

    Nevertheless, I would like to mention a couple things about providing prehospital medical care in New York State:

    First, not every cop is trained as a certified [medical] first responder or EMT; second, victims would likely be combative and resistant to being treated medically by colleagues of their aggressors; two-a, as a medical responder, you must ensure your safety and the safety of other responders before responding to patients; third, the standard of care is that patients go to the hospital in ambulances, not in police cars or vans.

  • I like how this didn’t even make some of the major network news broadcasts. They had more important things to cover and keep on spending 5 minutes of their time on MJ’s death.

  • Jonathan, I don’t think anyone expects the cops to administer medical care. What they should have done, however, is to assess the entire situation rather than swarm around their own.

    Also, if it is true that the first ambulance on the scene only tended to the injured cops, then that suggests that the cops interfered with the work of the paramedics. In a situation where the number of casualties is beyond the capacity of the responders, paramedics typically do a triage and then focus on the worst injuries that are not terminal. The guy with the broken leg should have been the first to receive care, and if that didn’t happen, then something is very fishy.

  • ddartley

    I don’t know how we can be sure that the cops’ story about lights and sirens is untrue. More than one news report says they were on; more than one report says they may have been off; most say it’s disputed.

    I understand that cops’ official statements sometimes contain patent lies. However I should point out (maybe I should have already) that I got the impression from the one guy I spoke with at the scene that either lights or sirens were on.

    He pointed out that the cameras in the projects across the Avenue would have recorded it, but others have speculated that those recordings will go straight into the posession of the cops and no one will see them. I don’t know how that stuff works.

  • Another random thought: Surely there are security cameras in the area that can tell us whether the police cruiser had its lights on. Maybe someone should get hold of the footage.

  • Vroomfondel, the writeup above quotes PIX as saying that the police unit took the police officer, not the ambulance. Also, deformities, while gory, are not always the most serious injury on scene. For argument’s sake, if the out-of-control cruiser narrowly missed a child, causing stress that brought on an acute asthma attack, the child would take priority over the patient with the deformity or potential fracture. “Extremity trauma rarely causes a life-threatening situation.”

  • Jonathan, I missed the part about the police unit taking the cops; thanks for straightening this out. I was thinking of yesterday’s thread, where it looked like it was an ambulance. Now I’m glad I hedged my statement a bit. You’re right that the most serious injuries are not always the most obvious ones, but in this particular situation that happened to be the case.

  • How about narrowing Ave. D to make it slower?

  • Miss Representation

    Whereas cops aren’t EMTs, they also don’t help much with traffic control. About a year ago, directly behind me a man crossing (legally, with a walk signal) Houston at B was hit by a car turning left (onto Eastbound Houston). There were several cruisers in the vicinity. While officers were sitting in one, there was another accident in the westbound land (a result of rubber necking), but the two offices in a cruiser still did not exit to perform traffic control (or even sort out the other accident, which only involved vehicles). In the meantime, two officer were encouraging (and half dragging) the injured man to move from the road, clearly in an effort to resume traffic flow, even though there were enough officers on scene to stop traffic until the first responders (Engine 28, which took literally less than three minutes to deploy, since they are all of one block away) arrived, and who would have been trained to determine if dragging an injured person from the accident was medically safe.

  • Bob

    It’s funny, a friend of mine passed this scene just after it unfolded and was telling me about it– he hadn’t stopped to find out what it was, and assumed he had seen the aftermath of a drive-by shooting– a wrecked car, injured people everywhere, and tons of cops.

    It’s strange that such carnage in the form of such so-called traffic accidents is tolerated by our community.

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