From the Village Voice, June 11:
NYPD Slammed With Lawsuit Over Handling of Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths
On July 10, 2011, Clara Heyworth was walking to meet her husband when she was fatally struck by motorist Anthony Webb, who was driving with a learner’s permit, not a license. He also might have been drunk and speeding at the time of the incident. Webb was arrested at that time.
The New York Police Department waited four days after Heyworth’s death before investigating the accident. Her widower, Jacob Stevens, claims that NYPD investigators dragged their feet because she wasn’t killed instantly. By the time they went to gather key evidence, he says, it had already been destroyed, meaning Webb got off the hook for Heyworth’s death.
Stevens is filing a lawsuit against the NYPD today, alleging the department’s policies prevented adequate investigation of this and similar cases.
Stevens and his lawyer, Steve Vaccaro, claim that the NYPD’s “Dead or Likely to Die” policy—under which Accident Investigation Squad investigators get dispatched to a crash only when a victim has died or is likely do die—directly caused this situation.
This Squad is made up of 19 investigators. They are the only ones who are allowed to say whether a driver broke the law. They dealt with 304 cases last year.
However, the Squad does not investigate crashes that don’t involve actual or likely death—those just get a one-page report…
Some other key cases include Stefanos Tsigrimanis. In September 2010, Tsigrimanis got hit by a motorist on Brooklyn’s Grand Avenue. He had a traumatic brain injury and died despite emergency surgery, transportation advocates tell the Voice. Because he was not called “likely to die,” at the time of the incident, the NYPD wound up looking into his death “over forty days after the crash occurred.”
In October 2010, also, a hit-and-run driver slammed into Michelle Matson. As a result, she endured a fractured skull, left leg, and cervical vertebrae. Because she was alive, transportation advocates claim, cops didn’t take her case seriously and never tried to ID the driver. So, nobody was charged.
More from the New York Times:
The complaint says the department’s policy is a direct violation of state traffic law, which calls for investigations of all crashes that cause serious injury, whether or not anyone is killed
The police unit conducted 304 investigations last year, the police said, a year in which the city recorded 243 people killed in traffic crashes, including Ms. Heyworth and 138 other pedestrians, and 22 bicyclists.
Those statistics have declined in the last decade as the Transportation Department has taken steps to redesign streets, slow car speeds and, most recently, install 1,800 countdown clocks at crosswalks.
But few of the crashes have resulted in arrests or criminal charges unless the driver was drunk or distracted by a cellphone. That is an indication, critics contend, that the police treat traffic deaths less seriously than other violence, even as cars now kill more New Yorkers than guns.