Davie police chief in unmarked car hits teenager on bicycle

03/23/2012 6:47 AM

03/23/2012 7:28 AM

Police Chief Patrick Lynn was driving his unmarked car Wednesday morning when he hit a teenage boy riding a bicycle just yards from police headquarters.

Police did not ticket Lynn, 49, even though he was at fault in the accident, failing to yield right of way, the police report shows.

Frank Conner, 15, was riding his bike to school about 9:25 a.m. Wednesday when he was hit. Lynn was turning right onto Nob Hill Road when he collided with Conner, who was in the crosswalk heading south. Conner, who attends Indian Ridge Middle School, was not hurt.

Lynn declined to comment, but issued a statement through police spokesman Capt. Dale Engle.

"He is just grateful that no one was hurt," Engle said.

Following standard protocol, Lynn's accident will be reviewed by the police department's accident review board, Town Administrator Rick Lemack said.

Normally the chief would determine disciplinary action in an officer-involved crash based on the board's findings. In this case, Lemack will decide whether the chief should undergo training or face stiffer discipline.

"It doesn't matter whether he is a chief or Joe Officer on the street," Engle said. "We deal with everyone the same way. He faces administrative sanctions. He could lose his car or he could receive driving training."

Engle said a citizen who hit a bicyclist may not have gotten a ticket either.

"The officer can use his discretion and not write a ticket," Engle said. "The officer didn't witness the crash. It's not clear cut that John Q. Citizen would get a ticket in something like this."

Sandra Levine, the crash victim's sister and legal guardian, isn't so sure.

"I'm a little upset that the chief was at fault in the accident and didn't get a ticket," she said Thursday. "If I would have hit someone, I would have gotten a ticket. So because he's a police chief he doesn't get in trouble?"

Police departments across the country face a similar dilemma when top brass are involved in both serious and minor traffic accidents, said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor with John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

"This is becoming a very hot topic in the police world," he said. "There is an obvious conflict when an officer from the same department investigates an accident involving one of their colleagues. And it's more difficult when it's the chief who is a party to the accident. That officer gets put in a terribly bad position."

Sandy Hardwick, who witnessed the accident, had the same question.

"Why didn't they give him a ticket?" she said. "Because he's a chief. If it was me, I would have gotten a ticket. If it was you, you would have gotten a ticket. He should be ticketed. The light was red and the bicyclist had the right of way. The kid was hysterical. He was crying, he was shaking."

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