Steve Levin to Ray Kelly: Time to Fully Investigate Serious Traffic Injuries

Brooklyn City Council Member Steve Levin wants NYPD to explain the way it investigates traffic crashes, and is preparing legislation that would bring department procedures in line with state law and significantly increase the number of officers trained to deal with cases involving serious injury and death.

Steve Levin

In a letter to Commissioner Ray Kelly [PDF], Levin questions the practice of deploying the Accident Investigation Squad only in instances where someone is killed or is believed likely to die. Currently, crashes that result in injuries that are not considered fatal are handled by precinct cops who aren’t trained to conduct full-scale investigations.

Delaying AIS engagement in fatality cases in which injuries were initially not thought to be life-threatening has severely compromised subsequent police work. When a doctor told officers that cyclist Stefanos Tsigrimanis wasn’t in mortal danger after being hit by a driver in Brooklyn, AIS called off its investigation and did not return to the scene for 46 days. Because NYPD was unaware that pedestrian Clara Heyworth had died after she was struck by an unlicensed driver, AIS was not dispatched until at least three days after the crash, as physical evidence slipped away.

According to testimony presented at the February City Council hearing on NYPD traffic enforcement, AIS protocol also violates state traffic code. Writes Levin:

According to Article 22, Section 603-A of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Rules, a detailed investigation into a vehicle accident must be conducted when an accident “results in serious physical injury or death to a person.” The section specifically defines “serious physical injury” as that which is already defined in section 10.00 of the penal code. Section 10.00 of the penal code defines “serious physical injury” as physical injury which “creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ. ”

As this type of investigation is only authorized to be carried out by AIS and as AIS limits itself to the investigations of those accidents in which one has either died or is deemed likely to die instead of all accidents that result in serious injury, I do not see how the NYPD can reasonably claim to be in compliance with Article 22, Section 603-A of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Rules.

Levin goes on to ask for a public explanation of the discrepancy between state code and NYPD procedure, and requests that Kelly amend the department patrol handbook “to reflect the need for AIS to be called to investigate every accident in which a serious physical injury has occurred.”

In the meantime, the council member has two bills in the works, according to a spokesperson. One would amend the patrol handbook to conform to state law. Another would mandate that at least five officers per precinct be trained to conduct AIS-scale investigations.

The second bill would dramatically increase the size of the AIS. At the February hearing, council members learned that the squad is comprised of just 19 officers. As few as one investigator may be on duty at one time.

“The Patrolman’s Handbook is at odds with the New York Vehicle and Traffic Rules,” said Levin in a media release. “I want an explanation as to how the intent of the law is being met by NYPD policy on accident investigations.”

  • Ben from Bed Stuy

    Go Levin Go! I like when my elected representatives stand up for pedestrian and cyclist safety.

  • Eric McClure

    Kudos to CM Levin for his efforts.  He can borrow Park Slope Neighbors’ radar gun any time!

  • Brooklyn Voter

    Good to see that Levin is following up with some real, serious action. Jess Lappin talked a good talk at the February hearing, but it didn’t take long for her to turn her attention to e-bikes, a curious choice for punitive legislation since they’ve so far been involved in zero pedestrian fatalities.

    It’s great to see CM Levin emerge from the hearing as such a passionate advocate for safe streets.  He deserves our thanks and praise.

  • THIS is what a City Councilman should be doing! Way to go CM Levin! You’re saving lives, and winning my vote at the same time. 

  • Pete

    I remember about this time last year, there was an extremely contentious CB meeting on the PPW bike lane, where Steve Levin gave a very quick, week, non-committal statement, one that was embarrassing in comparison to Brad Lander’s strong endorsement that same night.  After that night, I was extremely skeptical that Levin would ever be of any use as a representative for the community.

    Consider my opinion changed.  Well done, Councilman Levin.

  • How exciting that CM Levin has written this letter demanding that Ray Kelly explain why only 1% of the serious crashes get the attention that they deserve.  Let’s see what Kelly has to say.

  • Anonymous

    Tell the cops you have been threatened by someone with a gun, the cops will come running.

    Tell the cops you have been threatened by someone driving a car, the cops will brush you out of the station house.

    Get shot, even if you don’t die, and the cops will be all over the case and dog it to the end.

    Get run over, and if you don’t die, they won’t investigate at all, and
    if you do die, they will report “It was just a tragic accident.” and
    file no charged or trivial charges against the driver.

    There is
    total disconnect about traffic assaults, injuries and death among the
    police commissioner, the mayor, the DAs and the judges.

    Cops get praise and promotions for finding guns, drugs and terrorists,
    but they get nothing for dealing with traffic safety. They are being
    paid to ignore traffic deaths and injuries.

    These perverse incentives have to be changed, and maybe the Margaret Myers of this city will be able to walk home in safety.

    This a response to Clyde Haberman’s column “A Reminder of the Danger of City Streets” in Monday’s Times.  It seems to apply here, too.

  • Car Free Nation

    If only he’d take the further step and get behind congestion pricing to protect his neighborhood from being a doormat for the rest of Brooklyn. Or if he’d stop paying attention to drivers who kvetch that they can’t get through his district fast enough. (I was at a traffic calming meeting where he made a point of bringing up complaints about drivers stuck in traffic on fourth avenue). 

  • Anonymous

     

    I do not see how the NYPD can reasonably claim to be in compliance with
    Article 22, Section 603-A of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Rules.

    Can this be the subject of a class action lawsuit?

  • Anonymous

    I am happy to see CM Levin take a stand on this urgent matter.  Now he needs to step up his public support of all the wonderful traffic calming measures (yes, even the Prospect Park West bike lane) that prevent these horrible accidents from happening in the first place.

  • Cberthet

    Bravo council member Levin….
    Please also ask that the highway patrol be deployed on arterials to enforce traffic laws?
    That would actually PREVENT crashes….

  • Finally, a cure for my district’s Lander-envy. Let’s hope it has some staying power.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Council Members Call on Ray Kelly to Reform NYPD Crash Investigations

|
Commissioner Ray Kelly and the New York City Police Department cannot continue to let thousands of serious injuries caused by dangerous driving go uninvestigated each year, said a group of City Council members, street safety advocates, and victims’ families on the steps of City Hall today. Council members are following up on a February hearing […]

Contrary to Ray Kelly, NYPD Doesn’t Investigate Serious Traffic Injuries

|
One day after Jacob Stevens filed suit against the NYPD for failing to properly investigate the crash that killed his wife, Clara Heyworth, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters that the department’s Accident Investigation Squad handles all crashes that result in serious injury. The claim does not withstand the slightest scrutiny. Here’s what Kelly said […]

NYPD Still Doesn’t Investigate All Fatal Traffic Crashes

|
In 2013, Ray Kelly made the only significant traffic safety policy change in his exceptionally long tenure as police commissioner. Kelly promised to increase the staffing of NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad — where, at the time, only 19 detectives were assigned to investigate crashes in a city with about 300 traffic deaths and 3,000 serious injuries […]