The New York Personal Injury Blog

Widower Sues Over Pedestrian Death; NYPD Padding Stats?

Anthony Webb did not have a license. He also was allegedly drunk. He was the driver that struck Clara Heyworth as she crossed the street to meet her husband. Jacob Stevens, the husband, remembers her stepping off the curb. He remembers being by her side as she lay bleeding. He doesn't remember the impact, reports the Gothamist.

Anthony Webb is still a free man, and will continue to be one, barring another DUI death. The officer that showed up brought a Breathalyzer that hadn't been calibrated in about four years. Needless to say, the reading, which was almost at the legal limit an hour after the accident, was thrown out.

There was also no accident investigation.

New York Vehicle & Traffic Code, Article 22, § 603-A, states that the police shall do an investigation into the accident if serious bodily injury occurs.

In NYC, the Accident Investigation Squad is responsible for such investigations. However, they claim that they are understaffed and can only investigate certain crashes. They only investigate when someone dies or is likely to die, reports the Gothamist.

One of the investigators allegedly called the hospital and was told "it is too soon to tell" if she would die. They called off the investigation an hour later and didn't return to the scene until three days later. By then, neighboring surveillance video was lost, skid marks had worn out, and there was essentially no evidence to gather.

AIS is also possibly to blame, in part, for the Breathalyzer misstep. According to the complaint, the old equipment was only used because AIS never showed up, despite repeated requests from the officers on scene.

The complaint also cites case law that states that the NYPD's duty to investigate these crashes is "nondiscretionary" and enforceable through a private lawsuit.

The numbers in the complaint are also illustrative of the systematic issues plaguing the AIS. There are approximately 3,000 persons per year who sustain serious, but non-fatal injuries. AIS investigated 63 in 2011. State law requires that they investigate them all.

There's a lot more in the complaint, but one of the allegations really stands out. The lawsuit claims, on page 17, that the police are padding stats. They cite a New York Times article that discusses the stat padding, including allegations that superiors pressure officers to classify many incidents as lower-level crimes, or not crimes at all. In one example, a woman that believed that her wallet was stolen got a copy of the police report, which merely stated "lost in unknown manner."

By fuddling with the classifications, the statistics on crime and unsolved crime remain in decline. The Police Department wins, the politicians win, and citizens think that the city is getting safer.

That sounds a lot like one of the themes of the HBO show The Wire.

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