On May 29, Austin Texas Police officer Damon Dunn was just finishing up with a traffic stop. The dash camera video shows the cruiser making a U-turn, then proceeding down the street, running a stop sign at the next intersection. It also tragically shows the police vehicle hitting a motorcycle driven by 74-year-old Lewis Oliver. Officer Dunn was placed on administrative leave, but ultimately no disciplinary action was taken against him.
This is absolutely inexcusable behavior. Too many police departments foster a “sheep herder’ mentality rather than a “public servant” mentality, while creating an atmosphere of arrogant entitlement on the force. There is absolutely no room for that attitude in uniform, and the officials incapable of understanding that need to be removed from office. The authority granted an on-duty police officer should only be given to an individual who has earned the respect required to weld such power through professionalism and dedication to the serving and protecting the public. Police officials who don’t steadfastly demand that of their officers have to go.
In October 2009, the Austin Police Department recommended to the City Council an ordinance forbidding electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle. They obviously understood the danger of such recklessness. The law makes an understandable exception for emergency vehicle operators. But this, and other exceptions to the law, are never to be accepted as “perks.” These should be understood as exceptions required for well-trained professionals to perform their duties. One would have hoped APD Chief Art Acevedo understood that when he stated that his officers are “discouraged by policy, but not prohibited, from not using their on-board computers while driving.”
Officer Dunn’s dash cam would seem to indicate otherwise, and the Police Department’s failure to hold him accountable for his inexcusable negligence smells of an above-the-law, boys-club attitude devoid of any pretense of professionalism.
Two biker forums I belong to warn member motorcyclists to stay out of Austin. If this anger continues to fester on these sites, then calls for full-out boycotts may well demonstrate to Austin city officials a point I’ve made before. The economic power of baby boomer bikers is not to be taken lightly. Council members and the police chief may also get a lesson in biker demographics at the next election. If I were running against them, I’d certainly keep a copy of this video handy.
— Guy Wheatley