Earlier this year, the Chron's Moises Mendoza wrote a story on the subject of police and seatbelt use, noting at the time that "During the past three years, 16 Texas police officers were shot to death, but 18 died in car and motorcycle crashes." Today's story notes that:
it's unclear how bad the problem is in Houston because HPD has no formalized way to track the issue, despite a state law and agency policy mandating seat belt use by everyone.Now we have solid evidence of an HPD officer driving - and dying - without his seatbelt on. One wonders if HPD will continue to bury its head in the sand on the subject. Until then, I'll just repeat my earlier observation on the subject that:
And statistics HPD does maintain raise questions.
In 2009, for instance, the department reported that officers were buckled up in every one of the 752 on-duty traffic crashes that year. With less than half the number of crashes, the Harris County Sheriff's Office reported 18 officers were unbuckled that year.The department, however, has repeatedly insisted it doesn't have a problem. In a February interview, Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo said she thought almost all officers buckled up and added there was no evidence that the department's statistics were incorrect
Overall, more than 2/3 of Texas police officer deaths on the job stem from traffic accidents, a state senate committee was told last year. (The other major cause of officer deaths is suicide - a total which dwarfs the number of traffic accidents and shootings combined.)
In addition to putting officers' lives at risk, police failing to use their seatbelts undermines their credibility with the public. This widespread acceptance among law enforcement of colleagues who flaunt the law on seatbelt use appears hypocritical in this age of "click it or ticket" media campaigns.
Officers told Mendoza they had good reasons for not using a seatbelt, but civilian drivers can make excuses too and that won't get them out of a ticket. Instead, the real reason so many cops don't use seatbelts is simple: They know other cops, including their supervisors, not only won't call them on it but will make excuses to the media if they're ever criticized for the practice. The attitude seems to be "seat belts for thee but not for me."