Wrecked cruisers cost city over $2.5M

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Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates

Indianapolis - 13 Investigates has discovered the city is spending millions repairing crashed police cars.

Cars and crashes are piling up at the Indianapolis Metro Police Department. So is the cost of damage resulting from police pursuits emergency runs and officer inattention. 13 Investigates uncovered more than 50 individual accidents costing the city from $10,000 to $34,000 each.

"If you crash one, you need to be accountable for that," said IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski.

But is IMPD holding officers accountable? 13 Investigates found ten officers with a troubling string of crashes, including a three-year officer with seven crashes, five of them just this year, but no record of discipline. Others tangled up five or six times over a two-and-a-half-year period.

That's just the start.

13 Investigates also discovered more than 1,300 accidents involving police officers at an estimated cost to the city of $2.5 million. The millions of dollars in damage doesn't even touch the totaled vehicles that never make it back into service. That's another $700,000.

"Money's very very tight. And if you're out there wrecking a $25,000 car, that's got to come from some place. I know myself as a taxpayer, I don't like to see police cars wrecked. I'm paying for that thing," said Lt. Nick Schivarelli, Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

Lt. Nick Schiavarelli is a 24-year driving instructor and the lead training officer for Emergency Vehicle Operations at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. He also certifies IMPD's training instructors. He says 80 percent of an officer's time is behind the wheel, but still believes 90 percent of accidents are preventable.

So how can departments make a dent in the rising numbers?


"How do we rectify that? Training, training, training," he said.

Up until last year, training courses were reserved for recruits. But last year state lawmakers passed new legislation requiring all police officers to undergo retraining in emergency response operations. 13 Investigates got behind the expert's wheel at IMPD's training, where there's no room for mistakes.

Dianna Raines knows the devastation of a police crash that can't be fixed. Her niece Amber was hit and killed crossing Keystone Avenue on New Years Eve, 2008. Officer Erin Ringham, a rookie at the time, was running dark to a backup call. That means she had no lights or sirens on.

The accident was ruled non-preventable. Ringham was not disciplined, but 13 Investigates discovered the officer had been ordered to remedial training after three other accidents just months before.

"We have to look at things like vehicle accidents. We have to look at, what does that data tell us?" said Frank Straub, public safety director.

Right now, Straub and Ciesielski say the findings of 13 Investigates highlights a driving need for change in crash policies.

"I would think that it is. Yes. And that's something that hasn't really be reviewed before, that we're looking to change right now," said Chief Ciesielski.