Monday, June 18, 2007

OPP Officer saved by "miracle"?

On Friday, under the sensational headline, “'Miracle' saves officer from death on roadside”, the Ottawa Citizen Online published a story about an OPP officer whose carelessness almost cost her serious injury, if not worse.

Provincial police are calling it a "miracle" an officer wasn't seriously injured last week after a truck carrying a wide-load narrowly missed striking a police officer on Highway 417.

Police said the officer had activated the emergency lights and stopped her unmarked cruiser at about 8:35 a.m. on June 7 to assist a motorist whose car had broken down on Highway 417 near Highway 416.

As the officer got out of the cruiser, a passing tractor-trailer carrying a load of roof trusses caught the driver's side door, police said. Ottawa OPP Const. Eric Booth said the officer, who saw the truck out of the corner of her eye, was able to lean back against the vehicle and dodge the trusses, which passed within inches of her face. The officer suffered minor injuries after the damaged car door struck her on the arms.

The item goes on to say that the trucker was subsequently stopped and charged with a number of offenses: “ … with failing to slow down and proceed with caution for an emergency vehicle, failing to wear his seatbelt and failing to comply with conditions of wide load permit.”

What’s missing in all of this is any indication of the officer’s own responsibility for the situation in which she found herself. It has always been my understanding that the onus is on the driver to: a) make sure that they are well off the traveled portion of the roadway when making an emergency stop; and b) carefully check for upcoming traffic before opening the drivers’ side door. It’s obvious that this officer failed to do at least one of the above - both, if the trucker was not actually traveling on the shoulder of the roadway. Flicking on the flashers and swinging the door open do not constitute due care, and by subsequently chasing down the truck driver and charging him with a couple of minor offences strikes me as being a matter of the best defense being a good offence, and a way to deflect attention from the officer’s own culpability in this regard.

It's like the 4-year-old whose first reaction when he's done something he shouldn't is to blame someone, anyone, else, except that in the case of the police, they actually have the power to do so.

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