I-TEAM

Protecting police while they protect us

CREATED May. 20, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Law enforcement officers drive, run license plates and stay alert, all at the same time. But there’s new technology designed to protect police while they protect us.

Xzavier Davis Bilbo is confined to a wheelchair. He was paralyzed after a driver texting ran over him, dragging him twenty feet back in 2010. His mother, Veletta Bradford, has made it her mission to keep the roads safe from any inattentive driver.

“It's not just texting and driving it is distracted driving in general,” said Bradford, who pointed out what distracts officers.

“I'm surprised with all the multi-tasking we do with all the distractions we aren't involved in more accidents,” said Fort Wayne Police officer Raquel Foster.

That’s the reason the chief of police in Fort Wayne, Ind. took action.

“We were having more accidents involving distracted officers,” explained FWPD Chief Rusty York.

With help from an Indiana company FWPD developed and tested a device called Archangel II. The device disables the computer inside police squad vehicles once it reaches a certain speed. In Fort Wayne, the department set that limit at 15 miles per hour.

“It wasn't welcomed with open arms,” explained York.

While the device allows officers to keep their eyes on the road critics say it prevents cops from doing what’s essential.

“I want to know who I'm pulling over before I stop the vehicle,” said Foster.

In Wisconsin, the wrecks involving officers are few but they have happened. According to Wisconsin State Patrol, distracted driving resulted in less than a dozen squad cars crashes in over a decade.

In the summer of 2012 in Milwaukee County, something distracted Deputy Sergio Aleman. He crashed into a back of a tow truck when traffic stopped suddenly along Interstate 43 in downtown Milwaukee. Aleman died in the crash.

State Patrol investigated the wreck. Investigators found no indication Aleman was distracted by his computer, however his personal cell phone was found in the county vehicle. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration weighed in.

A spokesman told the I-Team:

“No matter who is sitting behind the wheel, distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible, and could have devastating consequences. Law enforcement officers are trained to operate their vehicle and its equipment without compromising their own safety or that of other road users."

Each device runs around $300 per unit. Right now none of our local departments have plans to install the technology. But for little Xzavier’s mother who deals with the reality of distracted driving she believes even officers should limit their own distractions.

“Come spend one day with us, one day in Xzavier's chair and then tell me if that technology is necessary," she said.