City / Opinion

Police vehicle crashes on the Westside Parkway in Bakersfield

By Josh Lofy
Staff Writer

When police and witnesses have a difference of opinion, who do you believe? On Mar. 16, 2013, Officer Richard Davis, a veteran of 15 years,totaled a brand new police cruiser on the then uncompleted Westside Parkway. According to ABC23, several witnesses described what the officer was doing as a joy ride and mentioned officer intimidation. Bakersfield

Police Chief Greg Williamson said that the officer was not joy riding and was checking out the area for motorcyclists, adding that there was no officer intimidation. It would be much easier to believe Williamson if there were even a single photo of where the accident occurred, but there is not. At a press  conference held by Williamson on April 12, he mentioned that there were no photos taken of the incident. The tow truck driver who had arrived to tow the vehicle did attempt to take photos, but was told by officers that that was not his job.

Williamson said at the press conference, “Well, I think that it is not the tow truck driver’s responsibility to take photos at an accident. That’s not what we hire them for, and that’s why they’re subcontractors with our agency. Their job is to provide a service to us, to tow our vehicles, and I believe it’s against tow company policy to take photos of any vehicles”

Because there were no photos taken by anyone, this left only the Police Chief’s word to describe what had happened at this event. He described a scene where an officer who was not dispatched to the Westside Parkway, but was instead talking to some employees the day before from either the city or private contractors who had asked him to go out to the parkway to watch out for motorcyclists. This means at the time when the officer went on the parkway there were no reports of motorcyclists being on the parkway and there were no motorcyclists who were found. The computer on the totaled police car said Davis was going a max of 62 mph, according to Williamson.

Image from bakersfieldnow.com

Image from bakersfieldnow.com

This is a speed Williamson considers an unsafe speed, but he said this was not joyriding because the car can go as fast as 120 mph. When Davis came upon the 14-foot gap with an 18-inch drop, he had no time to stop. The vehicle was totaled, a price tag of $37 thousand dollars not including interior equipment, and the payment will come out of the police general fund which is paid for by taxpayers. After the crash Davis used a private cell phone to call his supervisor, who was unnamed in the press conference.

Witnesses to the crash, according to ABC23’s Cris Ornelas, said they were ordered to erase any cell phone pictures they had taken and that the event had “never happened.” According to the ACLU.org website, police officers are unable to your delete photographs or video under any circumstances.

There were no fire fighters or ambulance crews called to the scene even though the air bag had deployed in the vehicle. The vehicle was then placed at the Bakersfield Police Department’s back lot under lock and key, and no reporters were allowed access to the vehicle. There was one photographer who was able to get inside and take some photos, but all other stations and reporters were denied entry.

Williamson said this, “The car wasn’t hidden, and I can tell you this, the car was placed in the back lot and that’s typical for what we do. …The car (had) evidence in it and we didn’t want any of the evidence tainted.  That includes the air bag deployment and those kinds of things.”

The entire investigation has been kept under wraps through a term repeated by Williamson many times during his press conference. The police want to keep everything, “internal.” The desire for the police chief to want to keep this private seems to have led to an utter lack of information being acquired for the investigation.

Bakersfield’s police department must review their policies for their tow truck drivers and allow them to take photos. This will protect them from claims of intimidation, and will give investigators on site information. By reviewing these policies we could have a lot more trust in our police department, rather than the current distrust I feel at this moment. I was unable to find any new information regarding Officer Richard Davis. Theinvestigation and its results have been kept internal.

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