A local pol and a cycling advocacy group are calling for more accountability from the NYPD when it comes to investigating fatal traffic crashes, as well as those that result in serious injuries.
Transportation Alternatives and Councilmember Brad Lander, D-Park Slope, filed Amici Curiae (“Friends of the Court” briefs) in support of the Lefevre family’s lawsuit against the NYPD for allegedly withholding information about the death of their son, Mathieu Lefevre, who died in October after being hit by a truck while he was riding his bike in Williamsburg.
“I was shocked to find out that only 19 detectives citywide, along with a handful of supervisors, are responsible for investigating hundreds of fatal crashes occurring in New York City each year—and that there are literally none for thousands of non-fatal accidents that result in serious injury or paralysis,” Lander said in a statement about his brief. “It is time for the NYPD to tackle serious traffic crashes with the skill and determination merited by what is the number one cause of death for children ages one to twelve in our city.”
When the NYPD does not release the details and other information about these types of accidents, the families of traffic fatality victims are not able to get closure, Transportation Alternatives’ executive director, Paul Steely White, believes.
“The NYPD’s unwillingness to turn over information to the families of crash victims compounds their suffering,” said Paul Steely White in a statement. “By releasing information in dribs and drabs, the NYPD is literally adding insult to injury. There is no acceptable justification for stonewalling victims’ families.”
According to Transportation Alternatives, the group submitted six Freedom of Information requests to the NYPD in August 2011, to seek information related to the investigation of crashes that were reported in the media. The group said that they have not received any documents from the NYPD.
Councilmember Steven Levin is also trying to reform the NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad, which he said only go to the scene of an accident only if “a person dies or is likely to die,” he said at a Community Board 6 meeting last week.
“Those people with broken backs, necks and hips are not investigated,” he said during the meeting.
Levin sent a letter to the NYPD Commissioner, Ray Kelly, to request that police to reconcile their investigation response and suggest legislation.
“There is obviously serious physical injury that do not involve death and need to be properly investigated,” Levin said.
Last October, Mathieu Lefevre was killed by a flatbed truck driver who, according to police reports, did not signal his turn at the intersection of Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street in Brooklyn. The driver parked the vehicle a few blocks away and walked away, but was not charged with fleeing the scene or reckless endangerment.
Last week, the Brooklyn Paper reported that the driver was not charged, because police say Lefevre was partly to blame for the accident— as he was supposedly attempting to pass the truck on the right.