Update: October 5, 2019 The Victim of the September 18, 2019 crash passed away October 2, 2019. His name Alex C. Hill age 25. His family has been involved and has requested privacy.
By Michael G. Stogner
The outcome was both predictable and, I dare say, inevitable. The 20th Century “Good-Ol-Boy” policing model Chief Mulholland has brought to Redwood City is on full display and has but one outcome, bad -resulting in recurring problems. The Kristina Bell matter, a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Lieutenant who was the Suspect in a Redwood City domestic violence case, should have raised serious questions about Chief Mulholland’s judgement and ability to lead. Bell was given a pass,(Not arrested, Gun not removed, young child present) while other Redwood City residents engaging in similar conduct would have gone to jail. San Mateo County Domestic Violence Protocol Violated. Who knows this the Redwood City Council, San Mateo County Supervisors, County Manager, County Counsel. Just to name a few.
Now, we have a tragic incident. On September 18, 2019 Angela Wittman an on-duty Redwood City Police Officer, en route to a hot call, lost control of her marked patrol car, struck a pedestrian, and collided with other vehicles.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the collision and the results are pending, but I can say, with confidence, Chief Mulholland bears responsibility, in the matter.
Let’s look at the patrol car which was involved in the collision. It was a Ford Crown Victoria sedan, a vehicle last produced by Ford, in 2011, meaning this patrol car was at least 8 years old. It was a high mileage “run-out” car, a worn-out vehicle being operated well past its salvage / replacement date.
Law enforcement duties place heavy demands on vehicles, including frequent use, exposure to the elements, prolonged idling, stop and start city driving, quick maneuvering, high speed braking, and frequent loading of their suspension. This hard driving police work causes tremendous wear and tear on vehicles.
Regular inspections, repairs, and replacements, in a police vehicle fleet, are required, to maintain safety and efficiency. Chief Mulholland’s lack of attention to updating this old, driven into the ground, vehicle, disregarding industry replacement standards, speaks volumes about his leadership ability and suitability for the job.
When officers are saddled with high-mileage dilapidated cars such as this, ones far beyond accepted best practices, what did Chief Mulholland think would happen? I submit, a tragedy such as the collision described was both inevitable and foreseeable.
And let’s look at another aspect of the collision. Aside from the officer’s vehicle being a run-out, it was also a canine car and being operated as such. A deck had been installed where the rear seat would normally be and there was an adjustable partition governing access between the front and back passenger areas. Meaning, depending on how the partition was adjusted, the police dog could have the ability to physically influence the officer’s driving, either by chance (sliding or moving around, when the vehicle was underway) or by design, becoming excited, say in a high-speed response, and deliberately touching the driver or vehicle’s controls. Is this an industry standard or best practice and could the potential for mishap not be foreseen?
With a workforce of just 77 line officers, what training does Chief Mulholland give his officers, specific to high-speed & defensive driving, and how often? Further, how often does this training include instruction specific to the organization’s policies and procedures -it’s one thing to have policies & procedures, but quite another, to ensure they are trained to, monitored, and enforced? Remember, such driving is a perishable skill and, in that light, I would suggest it be given yearly. What do Redwood City PD’s training records show, Chief?
Finally, what is Redwood City PD’s policy, on using a canine unit to respond to an emergency call? Say, for instance, exceeding the speed limit, traveling at high speed, going Code 3 (with red lights and siren), etc.? Shouldn’t Chief Mulholland have given this issue some thought and enacted polices which would have governed / restricted the use and manner in which canine units respond to such situations? Better yet, with twelve sergeants, four lieutenants, two captains, and one deputy chief, shouldn’t one or more of those persons have been on-duty and supervised / managed the police department’s response, that September day?
Did Chief Mulholland ever consider these things or was he asleep at the wheel?
This is the 21st Century and, so far, Chief Mulholland has demonstrated backwards 20th Century performance. Chief Mulholland has a fifty-one million dollar budget for an agency with just seventy-seven actual worker bees. To supervise and manage this workforce, he has twelve sergeants, four lieutenants, two captains, and one deputy chief. To say the agency is top-heavy would be an understatement. Yet, even with such a lopsided ratio of supervisors & mangers to workers, Chief Mulholland managed to provide the resulting outcome.
The public’s expectation is for Chief Mulholland to be responsible, display good leadership, ensure the public’s and his staff’s respective safety, and be a good steward of the monies entrusted to him.
With a fifty-one million dollar budget, a workforce of just seventy-seven officers, and, beside himself, a dedicated staff of nineteen (supervisors and managers) to oversee the police department’s operation, how could the described circumstances ever have been allowed to exist and last week’s tragic event to have happened?
I submit, Chief Mulholland was behind the wheel and that last week’s tragic accident was both foreseeable and avoidable. It’s time to hold Dan Mulholland accountable and him not offload the blame! The buck should stop with him.
It’s been 12 days since a pedestrian was struck by a RWCPD Police car. It has been reported that he was in critical condition, Redwood City Police and CHP who investigated the incident refuse to identify both Officer and Victim, Why?