Boise, July 15, 2010 - At the urging of Chief of Police Michael Masterson, beginning today, employees of the Boise Police Department are prohibited from using cell phones or other handheld devices to text or e-mail while driving department owned vehicles.
The new policy addition reads:
An employee shall not use handheld electronic devices to transmit text messages, e-mails, or access the internet while operating a City owned vehicle. Employees are exempt when using the handheld electronic device to obtain geographical positioning system (GPS) information.
“Officers need to use a variety of communication tools that are critical to personal and public safety, but texting while driving is not one of them,” said Chief Masterson.
“We, as police officers, urge people not to text while driving. There’s growing evidence that texting takes a drivers eyes off the road for too long, and sadly, already has been a deadly distraction on our roads. I believe we have to follow the same safety advice we give to the people we serve – do not text and drive.”
Miles Driven, Traffic Safety: Boise Police employees drove approx 1.7 million miles last year and were involved 37 crashes, which is below the average found in a recent survey of benchmark (similar size) cities. A survey found the majority of BPD employee involved collisions in Boise occur as a result of backing up, either the officer or a citizen, and do not involve serous injury.
“Boise should be proud that the officers protecting this City are already among the best trained defensive drivers in the country. The highest priority I have as Chief is the safety of our officers and citizens, and evidence is just too strong that texting while operating a vehicle is a unique threat to safety.”
“I urge other agencies to follow the lead of the Boise Police Department and ban employees from texting , e-mailing, or checking the internet for latest scores while driving a company car. No one wants texting or internet use to be the cause of a collision where someone is seriously injured or killed.” said Chief Masterson.
Background: The Chief says the new policy is proactive and not a response to any particular incident. BPD officers have not been involved in any collisions that involved texting, either by a BPD employee or another driver. The policy, which has been under discussion in the department for several weeks, is simply meant as a proactive move to prevent traffic crashes.
Most police agencies, including BPD, officers have computers in their cars. At BPD, currently those do not have Internet access and do have pre-programmed keys so minimal keyboarding is required. Those display terminals give officers immediate information about incidents that are on going and that they are en route to respond to. That operation is considered one that is critical to the mission of public safety and one that officers are trained to use and not included in this ban. This policy only applies to handheld devices like texting or emailing from cell phones.
This does not prohibit officers from talking on their cell phones while driving. Officers commonly use their cell phones to contact citizens who have called for police assistance. Officers use their phones to gather more information from citizens or offer safety advice prior to their arrival on scene. Again, this is a function considered critical to the mission of public safety.
There is no evidence that texting while driving has been a practice among BPD employees. Again, the Chief considers this move preemptive and an important safety measure he hopes others will adopt for their employees.