Police chief apologizes for hitting car while looking at BlackBerry
Federal Way's police chief has issued a public apology for a minor traffic collision that took place while he was checking his BlackBerry in his unmarked police car.
Seattle Times staff reporter
There is a reason they call them "CrackBerrys."
Federal Way's police chief on Thursday issued a public apology for a minor traffic collision that took place while he was checking his BlackBerry in his unmarked police car.
In a news release beginning with the sentence "Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson is mortified," the city outlined what occurred and what steps were taken.
Wilson had stopped for a red light at the intersection of South 324th Street and Pacific Highway South in Federal Way on March 18 and glanced down at his BlackBerry to view newspaper headlines and e-mails. He then mistakenly thought traffic was moving again, took his foot off the brake and hit the car in front of him.
No one was injured and the cars weren't damaged, the department said.
But City Manager Neal Beets conducted a review on March 24, concluding the collision was preventable. He issued a verbal reprimand to Wilson, consistent with action that has been taken against other Federal Way officers involved in a first collision with less than $700 damage, according to the city.
City spokeswoman Linda Farmer said Wilson was not ticketed because, under department policy, officers are not cited for civil infractions.
Instead, their conduct is reviewed through the internal disciplinary process, which sometimes can be harsher, Farmer said.
"I take full responsibility," Wilson said in the release, which noted he has never had an at-fault accident in 28 years as a police officer.
In an interview, Wilson said the accident prompted some media inquiries, but that he issued the statement because he believes in openness and the importance of traffic safety.
"If you know me well, that is part of who I am as a police chief," he said. "And I think it is part of the culture of the city. We take the public trust very seriously."
The maximum fine for reading a mobile device while driving is $124, but jumps to $175 when an accident occurs, according to the State Patrol.
Although emergency vehicles are exempt from a new state law that prohibits drivers from sending, reading or writing messages, Wilson said his actions were inexcusable.
"Was this an essential communication for me to be on at the time? No," he said in his statement.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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