In the past, COPKA tracked public complaints about OPP cruisers speeding through built-up areas and shared them with the OPP. The result was substantially reduced OPP speeding. Public feedback was very positive, as people expressed relief and a renewed respect for the police.
Today, high-risk OPP driving is increasing once more. In the last year, COPKA has received reports from Eganville, Deacon, Killaloe, Barry’s Bay, Palmer Rapids and Whitney. Most of these concern OPP speeding. COPKA has done the math. A cruiser travelling at 60km/hr will take 30 seconds longer to go through Barry’s Bay than one travelling at 100 km/hr. Very rarely, thirty seconds may make a difference, but the vast majority of police calls are reactive, not preventative. How many other lives have been put at risk for the same 30 seconds?
The collision in Barry’s Bay on January 12, 2013 is a recent example of the kind of high-risk OPP driving that alarms the public and damages their confidence in the police. The motorist involved gave COPKA permission to use his description of the incident to ensure that this would not happen again. As reported in the January 16, 2013 issue of the Valley Gazette, the motorist was turning left off Highway 60 onto Sandhill Drive in Barry’s Bay, when his van was hit by an unmarked OPP cruiser. The cruiser was attempting to pass on the left, in the intersection, on an uphill curve, in darkness and heavy fog. According to the motorist, the investigating sergeant later told him that the OPP “have the right of way” when responding to a call.
The motorist was lucky. Had he been one second farther into his turn, his van would have been broadsided and he might have been killed. This incident was preventable.
When asked about high-risk OPP driving, OPP Staff Sergeant Paul Dowdall told COPKA: “The very nature of our duties (…) may involve increase risks. We strive through education and training of our officers to have a measured response to each incident keeping in mind our public safety mandate. Officers must conduct themselves accordingly with respect to OPP policy and the responsibilities/authorities contained in Provincial and Federal legislation.”
Story continues in the March 27, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.