Demeanor of rookie police officer in crash prompted inquiry leading to his resignation
It was the demeanor of an off-duty rookie police officer following an accident on Dec. 17, 2013, that prompted a victim of the accident to contact the department’s internal affairs unit, Col. Stephen McCartney said yesterday.
McCartney said after the accident that occurred on Warwick Avenue near Toledo Avenue, the probationary officer, Zachery Davis, didn’t leave his 2005 Nisson pickup truck.
“He didn’t even ask if they were OK,” said McCartney.
While there were no injuries to either driver in the head-on collision – Davis was reportedly driving on the wrong side of the road – the victim, a resident of Riverside, questioned Davis’ actions after she learned he was a Warwick policeman. A passenger in the victim’s car also escaped injury.
That inquiry prompted an internal investigation that has resulted in Davis’ resignation from the department, the suspension of another officer with pay and disciplinary action to untold others.
According to a timeline provided by McCartney, the victim visited the department on Jan. 10 and requested to talk with internal affairs. Subsequently, the department conducted an investigation, and Davis was suspended on Jan. 23. He resigned on Feb. 10.
Concurrently, the Traffic Division reinvestigated the accident.
According to narrative provided by police in the reinvestigated report, Davis provided a statement at the scene of the accident that he had struck “a patch of black ice” and acknowledged crossing the double yellow line into oncoming northbound traffic.
Immediately following the accident that occurred shortly before 10 p.m., Davis pulled his pickup into the nearby parking lot of Newport Creamery, according to the report.
In the initial report, the weather was documented as freezing rain or drizzle with ice/frost on the road surface.
A supplemental narrative says a 911 call was received moments before the accident from a woman who had seen a pick-up driving in the wrong lane of traffic near Benny’s on Warwick Avenue. She reported the truck was operating in the right northernmost lane while traveling in a southbound direction.
According to police, Davis acknowledged he had been drinking just prior to the crash. He also said he had been using his cell phone to send a text message.
Based on that information, the accident report was changed from the driver [Davis] being not distracted to distracted by “electronic communication devices [cell phone, pager, etc.].” The report further notes that an audio recording of Davis finds him “slurring his words and thick tongue speech while speaking with dispatch.”
Since the incident was first disclosed by Channel 12, McCartney said he has received numerous calls from the news media as well as several elected officials.
“I have given everything we can under the open records law,” the chief said.
Yet, while questions remain unanswered, McCartney said the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights restricts his ability to discuss the case.
“I can’t be more candid about that,” he said, “because the law doesn’t allow me to and I don’t want to jeopardize our case.”
Davis drove his vehicle from the scene of the accident to the nearby lot. The car was towed from the scene.