Monday, March 30, 2009

Press Release: Police chief apologizes for misusing mobile device on the road

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March 26, 2009

Linda Farmer, APR
Communications and Government Affairs Manager
P/253.835.2411 C/253.261.1211

Police chief apologizes for misusing mobile device on the road

Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson is mortified. On March 18 Wilson stopped at a red light, glanced down at his BlackBerry and then — thinking that traffic had started moving again — took his foot off the brake and collided with the car in front of him. There was no damage to either vehicle and no injuries.

City Manager Neal Beets conducted an internal review on March 24, found the collision to have been preventable and issued a verbal reprimand to Chief Wilson. In the past, Federal Way officers who have had collisions resulting in less than $700 in damage have received a verbal reprimand or counseling for a first collision.

“I take full responsibility,” said Wilson, who has never had an at-fault accident in his 28 years as a police officer. “Staying focused and avoiding distractions while driving is essential for safety. This is a good lesson in the intense concentration driving takes. If you’re not focused, accidents can happen — even to the chief of police.”

Emergency vehicles such as police are exempt from the new Washington State law that prohibits sending, reading or writing messages while driving. This exception is based on the need for operators of emergency vehicles to use essential communication devices. However, Wilson said that doesn’t excuse the behavior. “Was this an essential communication for me to be on at the time? No.” Wilson was viewing newspaper headlines and e-mail on his BlackBerry at the time of the incident and said he violated the spirit of the exception in the law. He has vowed this will not happen again.

The accident occurred at the intersection of South 324th Street and Pacific Highway South in Federal Way. Wilson was driving an unmarked police vehicle. Immediately after bumping the car in front of him, he turned on his emergency lights and used his police radio to request assistance.

The incident was the subject of a routine accident investigation.


Editor’s Note: Chief Wilson can be reached for comment at 253.835.6711.



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