Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Did the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor kill the cop?

Police car emergency lighting fixtures switche...Image via Wikipedia
Ford Crown Victoria safety problems have resulted in officers' deaths and lawsuits.


How many police officers have to die in Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors before The Record and other media beat a steady drum for replacement of the outmoded, rear-wheel drive cruiser used by state and local police agencies across the country? 

You won't find a single word exploring the Crown Vic's well-known safety problems in today's front-page coverage of the crash that killed a Teaneck officer. 

A Paramus police officer also was  killed when his Police Interceptor hit a telephone pole during a high-speed pursuit in the 1990s -- in a crash blamed on the car's power-steering problems. 

Did the Teaneck officer's car experience power-steering problems before it hit a telephone pole near police headquarters early Monday?

Except for photos of the battered cruiser, the story ignores how the accident occurred and doesn't answer obvious questions -- were there brake or skid marks, and were there signs of mechanical problems?

It's also hard to believe "investigators have not confirmed" whether Police Officer John Abraham was wearing his seat belt.

Clueless reporting

Did the reporters try to talk to the paramedics who were called to the scene to get a description of his injuries? Obviously not.

This is another half-assed story from the Woodland Park paper and Editor Francis Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her clueless assistants, including Dan Sforza.

Most police fatalities occurred when the Ford police cars were hit from behind while parked on the shoulder of a highway or road, and the gas tanks exploded. 

A smaller number, including the Paramus officer and possibly the Teaneck officer, died in crashes attributed to power-steering problems -- the steering wheel "freezes" in hard turns or at high speeds. 

Here is an item from The New York Times on the fires, one of which killed a New Jersey state trooper:
A 10-month federal investigation ended today without finding a defect in the Ford Crown Victoria police cars linked to the fiery deaths of a dozen officers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the car exceeds federal standards for fuel system safety and the rate of fires was not much greater than with Chevrolet Caprice police cars. Each of the 12 officers' deaths since 1983 involved a Crown Victoria gas tank catching fire, often after being hit in the rear in a high-speed crash.
The New York Times, Oct. 4, 2002
Problem dates to 1985

Consumer Reports listed a problem with the power steering in Crown Victorias dating to the 1985 model. 

Ford stopped selling the Crown Victoria to the public, but continues to supply them to police agencies and taxi fleets.

After the Paramus officer was killed, I suggested a project on the Police Interceptor to find out whether Ford was deeply discounting the cars to get police departments to continue buying them despite the safety issues, but Law & Order Editor Jerry DeMarco never did anything with it.

How's that again?

In today's Local section, Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano says more than two dozen residents  "crowded into" the municipal courtroom for a hearing on expanding a private school's athletic field (near Chairman Malcolm A. Borg's East Hill home).

The courtroom has seating for more than 100, so it's hard to understand why two dozen people would have to "crowd into" it.
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  1. Doesn't matter what kind of car you're driving if your heart gives out, genius. You're doing the very thing you accuse them of -- publishing without all the facts. Would've taken you 10 minutes to drive to the scene (the way I did) to examine the circumstances.

    Might've taken you a bit longer to discover that many departments in NJ have already done away with the Crown Vics -- and were in the process of doing so when you made your brilliant suggestion...

    ... and that Ford is discontinuing them.

    But you won't publish this. Why let the facts get in the way of a good post?

    Thanks for the gratuitous swipe. Keep 'em comin'.

  2. Are you saying he had a heart attack? Didn't see anything like that in your three-paragraph item.

    I know a lot of departments are using other cars, but the Crown Vic still rules among state police, Hackensack P.D. and many others.

    The car may continue to kill long after it is discontinued.

    You just blew a good story when you were at The Record. I guess it wasn't sexy enough for you.

  3. Hoo-boy! Jerry D and Victor are at it again! I'm surprised the congeniality lasted as long as it did. Wait. Is that Deirdre Sykes I hear laughing? Personally, I think the poor cop, having worked a double shift and experienced the adrenalin rush of saving a life a couple of hours earlier, fell asleep at the wheel. And has anybody in the media questioned the departed officer's reported decision, with an autistic child, to turn down a promotion to detective, which would have brought extra income? Those are two aspects I would have looked into if I were a reporter, which I ain't.

  4. Both good points, and more of what the reporters missed.

    But The Record system is to take direction from the pathetic assignment desk and Mother Hen, Deirdre Sykes.

  5. Again, the paper is not about to start speculating unless there's evidence to suggest it. Maybe he did fall asleep -- but Victor, are you honestly suggesting the paper should have theorized that he did without any reason to say so at this point? Or maybe he had a heart attack, or a stroke, or trouble with the steering. Same goes for his decision not to become a detective -- is it really the paper's job to question his choices? Perhaps a columnist can do so, but that's not appropriate for a news story. The paper presents the facts (i.e., he has an autistic son, he chose to remain in patrol, he was working a double shift late at night), and the reader can draw whatever speculative conclusions he wishes. You should know that.

  6. I am not saying the paper should speculate about anything. But the reporters should ask all of the questions and print the answers, not just accept what they are being told by police. The reporters should put everything out there for readers: the police car's safety record, the injuries and so forth.

    Instead, the reporters spent all their time reporting what a great cop he was and blah, blah, blah. Does that it make it more tragic? It's tragic all by itself, even if he was a just a good cop.

    Today's story reports the police refuse to add anything new to what little they said yesterday about the cause of the accident, and that's what the reporter writes.

    There is no independent attempt to get more information; the reporter speaks to the chief and that's it. That's lazy journalism.

  7. I have to agree with Victor here. The reporter should have posed those questions, and -- here I go speculating again -- it appears he did not. But a good reporter should be dubious, and should trust his/her instincts and act on them. That does not appear to be the case here.

  8. I just read the Record story online on the Ridgefield mayor being acquitted. A Record reporter asked Suarez's co-defendant, who was found guilty on two counts, if he felt justice was served. I mean, what kind of gall does it take to go up to a guy who's just been convicted while his co-defendant walked -- thanks, it would appear from previous stories, to the guilty co-defendant's testimony about what a straight-arrow the mayor was -- and ask him if he felt justice was served. Yet no Record reporter will ask the chief of police if it was possible that an officer fell asleep at the wheel.

  9. Your comment is the first word I've received the mayor was acquitted.

    I guess his defense attorney was worth every penny he will receive. I'm just guessing, of course, but I'll bet the fee will top $100,000 easily.

    It's also an embarrassing setback for the U.S. attorney and future prosecutions using that crook Dweck as chief prosecution witness.

    But I wondered how closely the jurors were listening when they asked for a transcript of much of the testimony.

    Suarez testified he knew he was being offered a bribe and that he never reported it to anyone. That said "guilty" to me.

  10. OK. I just looked at the story on northjersey.com.

    I don't see how the jury acquitted the mayor. It sounds like a case of jury nullification.

    I really don't think justice was served.

  11. I have to agree with the prosecutor, Suarez was a careful but corrupt politician. He was slick enough to not say the wrong words to incriminate himself.

  12. Thank you for sharing this information. I hope to see more in the future.

  13. The vast majority of police cars I see are Crown Victorias, despite Ford's decision to stop making them.

    They'll be around long after the assembly line grinds to a halt, as will their safety problems and the danger they pose to officers.

  14. I just read an online story reporting Ford will stop making the Crown Victoria at the end of this year, 2011.

    Some departments are replacing the Fords with the Dodge Charger, which is faster and uses even more gasoline than the thirsty Crown Vic.

    Others are using the Chevrolet Impala, which is front-wheel drive and handles far better than the Ford, which has rear drive and a solid rear axle.

  15. Honestly, the Crown Victoria is probably the safest police cruiser anyone could have had. The fact that people were making a big deal of the fires kind of shows that they don't understand what's entailed. The Crown Victoria is the ONLY vehicle that meets the 75 mph front and rear impact safety standard... the ONLY vehicle. If you get rear-ended in ANY OTHER CAR at 75 miles an hour, a punctured fuel tank would be the least of your worries because you would be dead already. People don't seem to understand that. Take a look at the death rate in the replacement Charger and Ford Taurus... it's far higher (per year) than the Crown Victoria.

    1. A Paramus, NJ, officer died not from a high-speed crash but because the defective power steering froze in extreme maneuvers, a flaw detected by Consumer Reports on civilian models. The cop was killed when his cruiser hit a telephone or light pole.


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