804 – Fleet Vehicle Crash

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Purpose

This policy describes Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) fleet vehicle crash procedures and is intended to reduce the incidences of both at-fault and non-fault fleet crashes to protect HCSO employees and the citizens the agency serves. It will also ensure fairness by establishing consistent disciplinary standards for at-fault fleet crashes. Fairness is a core value, and to ensure it is maintained, both mitigating and aggravating factors shall be taken into consideration when reviewing the facts and circumstances of the crashes. The Fleet Crash Review Board shall take such factors into consideration in varying from the established disciplinary standards to determine the appropriate discipline if circumstances warrant such flexibility.

Definitions

At-Fault Fleet: A fleet crash where negligence, carelessness, or violation of law or policy contributed to or caused the crash.

Department Safety Officer: The lieutenant assigned to the Vehicular Crimes Division whose duties include reviewing fleet crashes.

Drivers Safety Course: The goal of this Course is to make the student aware of the hazards of driving while in a law enforcement capacity. This course is designed to train personnel that have been in a fleet. The student will be able to apply the newly learned information while operating motor vehicles. This information should greatly reduce their chances of being involved in a at fault fleet accident.

Fleet Crash: Any event at any location where a HCSO vehicle, owned or leased, while moving or being operated by any employee or reserve, strikes another vehicle, person, or object, or is at rest and is struck by another vehicle.

  • Each traffic crash involving a HCSO vehicle will be treated as a fleet crash until the HCSO Department Safety Officer (DSO) determines if it is an at-fault or non-fault crash.
  • When the crash has no injuries (employee or citizen), no damage, actual damage that requires no repairs or minor damage that will not be repaired, the crash may be considered as a non-censurable fleet for which documented counseling shall be issued in place of utilizing the fleet censures listed in this policy.
  • Intentional acts with a vehicle or causing intentional damage to a HCSO vehicle will not constitute a fleet crash.

No Action:  When the Fleet Crash Review Board decides no disciplinary will be given.

Procedure

Each fleet crash must be reported, and the Emergency Dispatch Center (EDC) must be notified immediately.

The Vehicular Crimes Division (VCD) will be notified and will work the fleet crash unless the crash occurs outside of Harris County, in which case the primary responsibility for the investigation of the crash lies with the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the crash occurred. If the fleet crash involves extenuating circumstances (e.g., a crash occurring in municipalities in Harris County where only minor damage to the vehicle is involved, or a VCD unit is not immediately available to investigate the crash), the VCD supervisor will decide who investigates the crash.

If there are injuries, the EDC will notify the DSO, and a VCD supervisor will make the scene if life-threatening injuries exist.

NOTE: Any employee involved in a fleet crash must verbally notify his or her supervisor if injuries to any parties are involved.

The DSO will make the scene on all fleet fatalities.

If the HCSO vehicle is driveable, it will be taken to the downtown or Tomball vehicle maintenance center (VMC) for an estimate within three (3) days of the fleet crash.

Harris County Auditor’s Form 118 must be completed and signed by the employee within three (3) days of the fleet crash. The immediate supervisor must approve and sign.

If the HCSO vehicle is not drivable, it will be towed by a contract tow service to a designated area for damaged county vehicles (e.g., Downtown VMC).

Once the damage estimate is performed, a copy of the estimate will be delivered to the Fleet Administrator by VMC personnel. The Fleet Administrator will maintain a list of damage estimates.

If the vehicle is drivable and need not be placed out of service, a HCSO employee shall deliver the vehicle to the downtown vehicle maintenance center during the scheduled appraisal time. The employee delivering the vehicle shall contact VMC to ascertain the appraisal times.

All vehicles that are disabled and are placed out of service either permanently or temporarily due to mechanical problems or damage from a fleet crash shall have the video processing unit (VPU) and the laptop computer removed from the vehicle by Law Enforcement Operations Support (LEOS) personnel.

The VPU and laptop computer shall be brought to Law Enforcement Operations Support for secure uploading of the video that is on the VPU and proper documentation of the processing of the captured evidence.

Failure to submit video in a timely manner and in accordance with this policy may result in disciplinary action.

If a vehicle is designated to be “downloaded” by a VCD investigator or a designated representative, it shall be marked by a fluorescent-colored sticker indicating “Download” being placed on the vehicle prior to leaving the crash scene. The HCSO case number shall be written on the sticker. These vehicles shall not be moved, processed, or otherwise tampered with until the download has been performed by designated personnel. Once the download is conducted, the sticker shall be removed.

NOTE: While performing the download, if the investigator observes the VPU and laptop are still inside the vehicle, the investigator shall not remove the sticker. The investigator will mark through the word “Download” and write the date performed on the sticker. This will inform the LEOS personnel who remove the VPU and laptop that they can remove the sticker, allowing VMC personnel to begin repairs of the damage.

  • The VCD investigator shall notify the appropriate LEOS and VCD personnel of the need to conduct a download and to secure video relating to subsections J and K above.
  • The VCD will be responsible for completing the Blue Team entry for all fleet crashes.
  • If a HCSO vehicle is requested to be kept in its wrecked condition for evidentiary purposes, it shall be transported by contract tow service to a designated location (e.g., 310 Fisher Road or 23828 Tomball Parkway).
  • If the employee involved in the crash desires to make a statement concerning the incident, he or she is requested to review the crash report and ask any questions about any inconsistencies. The involved employee may create a supplement report in the Mobile Field Reporting (MFR) within ten (10) days of the fleet crash and scan a statement into the “E-files” section of that report.

Fleet Crash Review

Department Safety Officer (DSO) Review

  1. The DSO shall review each fleet crash.
  2. Each fleet crash will be evaluated on the facts of the event.
  3. The DSO will determine if the fleet crash was at-fault or non-fault.
  4. The DSO will forward, in writing, a determination of non-fault crashes to the Patrol Bureau commander.

Vehicular Crimes Division Commander Review

Those fleet crashes found by the Department Safety Officer to be not at-fault will be reviewed by the VCD commander for review and disposition. If the Patrol Bureau commander concurs with the finding of the DSO, the case will be closed.

Fleet Crash Review Board

Fleet crashes found to be at-fault or those in which an employee was found not to be wearing a seatbelt will be presented to the Fleet Crash Review Board by the Department Safety Officer.

This board, chaired by the VCD commander, will convene once a month.

The board will consist of the following: A chairperson (VCD commander), one (1) captain, one (1) lieutenant (assigned to a law enforcement or criminal investigations function), one (1) field training officer (FTO), and one (1) union representative.

The Department Safety Officer will present to the board all fleet crashes that have been determined to be “at fault” for their review.

After review, the board will determine any remedial action to be taken regarding the fleet crash as set forth in this policy.

If the board determines a fleet crash had additional department or patrol policy violations, they will be referred to the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) by the chairperson.

If the board takes “No Action” the disciplinary shall be waived, but the at-fault fleet will remain on the employee’s driving record and placement within the disciplinary matrix will not change.

Remedial Action

The following censures, consisting of letters of reprimand or disciplinary action, will be taken against employee drivers that are involved in one or more at-fault crashes during a twenty-four (24) month period.

The following monetary ranges are based on the damage estimates of the department vehicle operated by the employee. There are those incidents where an employee who is operating a department vehicle collides with another county-owned vehicle. In those instances, the damage of all department or county-owned vehicles shall be used to assess the monetary ranges below.

If the circumstances of the “at-fault fleet” are flagrant or the amount of damage to the “other than county-owned vehicle or property” is high, those factors may be considered in determining the proper remedial action to be rendered.

All employees involved in an at-fault fleet that results in $400 or more in property damages, shall take the Driver Safety Course within ninety (90) days of receiving notification from legal, unless waived by the Sheriff or his designee. If the employee fails to attend the course within ninety (90) days, they may lose take home privileges for six (6) months.

First Crash

< or = $5,000:letter of reprimand
> $5,000 to $10,000:1 day suspension
> $10,000 to $15,000:2 days suspension
> $15,000:3 days suspension

Second Crash

< or = $10,000:3 days suspension
> $10,000 to $15,000:4 days suspension
> $15,000:5 days suspension

Third and Subsequent Crashes

< or = $10,000:7 days suspension
> $10,000 to $15,000:10 days suspension
> $15,000:11 days suspension

Deputies not wearing a seatbelt or not securing a prisoner with a seatbelt adds the below number of days of suspension to the above matrix, and the Fleet Crash Review Board may place the deputy in a non-driving position for up to a year. Depending on the circumstances of the fleet crash, the Fleet Crash Review Board may refer the incident to the Administrative Disciplinary Committee (ADC) for disciplinary action up to and including termination.

First occurrence: 3 days for the deputy and 3 days for the prisoner. If both are found not to be wearing a seatbelt, 6 days will be added to the above matrix.

Second occurrence: 5 days for the deputy and 5 days for the prisoner. If both are found not to be wearing a seatbelt, 10 days will be added to the above matrix.

Third occurrence: 10 days for the deputy and 10 days for the prisoner. If both are found not to be wearing a seatbelt, 20 days will be added to the above matrix.

Note:  In no way will an employee be suspended beyond the fourteen (14) day disciplinary limit imposed by Harris County.

Fourth and subsequent crashes will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may include a transfer to a non-driving position for a period of not less than one (1) year. The review may also include the loss of the county “take-home” vehicle for not less than two (2) years.

If an employee has been assigned to a driving position for at least five (5) consecutive years without an at-fault fleet crash, the board may reduce the punishment within the disciplinary matrix by one level.

When the above disciplinary standard level for the at-fault driver has been established, aggravating and mitigating factors shall be considered in determining whether the Fleet Crash Review Board will vary from the established disciplinary standard level. Aggravating and mitigating factors which may lessen or increase the established disciplinary standard level include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. The employee’s at-fault history since the date of employment,
  2. The severity of the collision as measured by injuries and property damage,
  3. The nature and severity of violations committed by the employee that contributed to the crash, or
  4. The violations committed by the other driver that contributed to the crash.

If an employee is involved in an at-fault fleet crash that results in serious bodily injury or death to any other person, the remedial or disciplinary action may include any action up to and including termination, regardless of how many prior at-fault fleet crashes the employee may have had.

If the at-fault fleet crash involves serious bodily injury or the death of any other person, the Fleet Crash Review Board shall conduct an investigation and review of the at-fault fleet crash. The Fleet Crash Review Board shall make a recommendation as to remedial or disciplinary action and shall present the results of the investigation or review of the at-fault fleet crash to the Administrative Disciplinary Committee (ADC). The ADC shall determine the remedial or disciplinary action, up to and including termination, in at-fault fleet crashes that result in serious bodily injury or death of any other person.

The terms “serious bodily injury” and “death” shall have the same meaning as defined in the Texas Penal Code.

All employees involved in any at-fault fleet crash may be required to attend a vehicle operations training course provided by or through the HCSO Academy.

Upon completion of remedial driver training hosted by the HCSO, the instructor shall forward documents indicating successful completion to the Human Resources Division (HR) for inclusion in the employee’s personnel file.

If the employee is mandated to participate in training outside of the HCSO, the employee shall forward proof of successful completion to HR for inclusion in the employee’s personnel file.

Loss of take-home car privileges may be imposed for any at-fault fleet crash.

Any county employee who is criminally charged with an offense greater than a Class C misdemeanor as a result of an at-fault fleet crash may be subject to termination.

If a deputy is found not at fault for a fleet crash, he or she may still be disciplined for violations of state law or department policy (e.g., not wearing seatbelt, excessive speed, etc.).

Personnel Early Warning System (PEWS) Entry

No fleet crash shall be entered into an employee’s PEWS record until the fleet crash has been reviewed by the Department Safety Officer (DSO) and determined to be an “at-fault” fleet.

Remedial or disciplinary actions regarding fleet crashes shall only be entered into PEWS upon a Fleet Crash Review Board’s decision.

Training mandated by the Fleet Crash Review Board, whether successful or unsuccessful, shall be entered upon completion.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 27, 2009                       October 16, 2015

January 31, 2011                 May 19, 2016

January 12, 2012                 August 19, 2016

January 7, 2014                   November 28, 2018

January 17, 2014                 March 9, 2020

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