JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As of Wednesday evening, there have been 12 accidents involving Jacksonville Sheriff's Office police cruisers in 2019 and in most of the crashes, the officer has not been at fault, according to News4Jax records.
On Tuesday there were two crashes involving police cruisers in Jacksonville, the Sheriff's Office said. In one of those crashes, an officer ran a stop sign and struck a van that was carrying children. A passenger inside was hospitalized. The children were not hurt.
In many of the crashes, the officer was not blamed for the collision. On Feb. 3, investigators said a man rammed a police car, which led to a pursuit.
Mitch Stone, a criminal defense attorney, has represented both police officers and drivers of cars hit by cruisers. He wasn't shocked at the number of cruisers involved in crashes in 2019.
"It seems like a lot. But I would definitely say due to the size of the fleet, the amount of man-hours when cars are on the road, I don't know if that, statistically speaking, is that much," Stone said. "It seems like a lot for just the first quarter of the year."
It's common knowledge that drivers who see an approaching police car with flashing lights and siren must pull over, but News4Jax asked Stone if that meant officers are free of fault if a crash occurs.
"It's awfully difficult to challenge an officer who is on his way to an emergency," Stone said. The question is, what was the emergency? "The question is, did they take every opportunity to avoid a collision even if they were moving towards an emergency situation?"
News4Jax asked the Sheriff's Office about the training officers receive for defensive driving. A statement from a spokesperson reads:
"While in basic law enforcement training, recruits go through 48 hours of driving as part of (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) training requirements. When hired by JSO, officers do an additional eight hours of training."
News4jax has reported in a number of cases that some officers involved in accidents are required to take additional training. Some internal affairs reports show the officers have been disciplined.
In reference to the cost for taxpayers, News4Jax has requested records from Risk Management, the city agency that handles claims on the crashes. It did not immediately have a response Wednesday.
By News4Jax record, crashes involving JSO cruisers in 2019 include:
- March 31: Officer hurt in crash on Park Street