DPD officers complete crash-scene investigation course
Earlier this month, six Dyersburg police officers completed an 80-hour training course designed to improve officers' analytical abilities during crash-scene investigations. At Scene Traffic Investigation School is a comprehensive course offered by Tennessee's Highway Safety Office to teach officers how:
* to identify roadway evidence
* to apply physics to determine speed and time factors
* to determine evidence inside and outside of cars
* to learn how to draw scale maps
* to learn how to properly record data
The course, which is offered for free to municipal police as well as sheriff departments, was taught by instructor Benny Waldrop who is an expert on traffic crashes and recreations. Waldrop stated that when police officers arrive at a crash site they normally ask witnesses and drivers what happened. The course is designed to teach officers how to form an opinion based on evidence rather than witnesses, which can sometimes give contradicting testimony. Waldrop's, whose experience includes 32 years with the Tennessee Highway Patrol as well as five years with the Madison County Sheriff's Department, hopes that officers can use the information to file accurate reports and cut back on lawsuits.
"There are always a lot of questions in a crash," said Waldrop. "This is a way they (officers) can get in there and be given the tools to cut down on lawsuits."
The course is the first in a series of three courses that includes the Advance At Scene Traffic Investigation School and the Reconstruction Class. Officers that complete all three courses can earn credentials that would allow them to be declared expert witnesses during court cases. The advantage of an expert witness, according to Waldrop, is that expert witnesses can offer opinions and answer hypothetical questions.
"Someone that takes all three classes will be able to reconstruct crash sites with a lot of detail," said Waldrop.
Officers attended the course from April 23 through May 4 at the DPD Training Center in Dyersburg. The officers that attended the course are: Vella Denny, Bart Lemmons, Scott Bruce, Jessica Luckenbaugh, LaQuinta Ward and Sgt. Billy Buck. Twelve DPD officers have now completed the course and Capt. Mark Moody says the department will continue gathering groups of officers to attend the course on a yearly basis until all have completed at least the basic course. Moody says that the DPD will also begin registering officers for the advanced course.
In 2011, the DPD responded to 795 traffic crashes including 97 involving injuries, three of which proved to be fatal. So far this year, the DPD has responded to 287 traffic crashes including 37 involving injuries, one of which has proven to be fatal.