Civilians May Be Investigating Louisiana Auto Accidents Soon
If you find yourself in a future fender bender in New Orleans, don’t be surprised if a civilian is the one investigating it. The city recently green-lighted a plan for common folk and possibly retired police officers, under the management of a New-Orleans based “civil traffic accident investigation and support” firm, to be given contracts to review traffic accidents.
As of September 12, 2017, a proposal written to provide support in the collection of information on non-DWI and non-injury accidents effectively took the investigative role out of the hands of the New Orleans Police Department. The move was an effort to free up time for officers in the department. The contractors will gather evidence and then send data over to police, which will allow officers to put more of their time and resources into non-traffic duties.
New Orleans Police Department Sought Proposals for Traffic Contract Work
The New Orleans Police Department has specific requirements that had to be met in order for the requested proposals to be considered. Each proposal for traffic investigative contract work had to include a commitment to:
Collect data and facts after dispatching to the scene of an accident
Deliver reports and data to New Orleans Police Department supervisors, who then determine fault and issue any citations warranted
Maintain crash response records that police officers can access free of charge
Provide data to “interested parties” including insurance companies (for a fee in accordance with local and state laws)
Furnish all of the needed equipment for investigating a crash, including vehicles and uniforms with emergency lighting that distinguishes the contractors from police
The City of New Orleans’ request for proposals ultimately gives police discretion when deciding how they will use civilian investigators and to what extent. The police department can choose which geographical areas the civilian investigations will take place in and to which types of accidents they will be sent. Police will also be allowed to train investigators in whatever manner suits the department’s purposes.
A Previous Bill to Use Civilian Investigators Never Made it Out of Committee
This year’s legislative session saw Sen. Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans) draft a bill that would have allowed the city to use civilian investigators. But, it didn’t make it out of committee. Even though the idea failed in the legislature, a spokesperson for Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, Erin Burns, says that city officials are sure that their plan complies with Louisiana law. Burns confirmed that the initiative already received a “go-ahead” from New Orleans’ city attorney.
Burns adds that she believes the legislature would have eventually solidified the plan and that it is indeed legal. She suggests that civilian investigation of certain traffic accidents is a helpful way for New Orleans to move forward in increasing manpower for the police department and on the city streets.
On-Scene Services Submits Winning Proposal
After the city and New Orleans Police Department met at City Hall in September, they decided that On Scene Services would win the proposal war over two other companies vying for the contract; city officials voted to begin contract negotiations. The winning proposal includes On Scene Services hiring Pinnacle Security and Investigations, Inc. to hire the necessary traffic officers – a plan of action that would not require an upfront cost to the city. All costs would be paid for by ordered services including accident reports, video footage, and witness statements, in tiered or custom packages ranging from $100 to $600.
On-Scene Services will hire reserve, off-duty, or retired police officers to fulfill investigative duties. The firm says it has run a similar model at times, and it feels confident it can provide the service to New Orleans at no cost to the city.
Fender benders take up too many man hours and resources, according to the New Orleans Police Department. Now, with the green-light of the plan, the city can focus efforts elsewhere. What will this mean for citizens who get into minor accidents? Maybe not much that’s noteworthy.
Regardless of who is investigating an accident, those involved should still document all of the details of the accident themselves and then call an attorney – whether there were immediate injuries or not.
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