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Report: Mass. troopers involved in nearly 500 crashes in last 7 years

The Associated Press

BOSTON — State troopers have been involved in nearly 500 crashes in their cruisers over the past seven years, including instances in which officers were inattentive, speeding or following cars too closely, according to WBZ-TV.

The WBZ-TV analysis of 2,600 cruiser accidents also shows nearly 120 officers have had four or more crashes in the past seven years.

State Police Chief Col. Mark Delaney said the problem needs to be addressed. State Police officers log 54 million miles a year in hazardous weather and driving conditions, Delaney said in the report broadcast Monday evening.

But police data shows the majority of crashes occur on dry roadways with clear skies and while officers are either commuting from home, working a detail or on a regular police patrol, according to the report.

Troopers are allowed to investigate themselves in accidents in which no one is injured and there is less than $1,000 in damages — despite potential conflict of interests. They frequently clear themselves of wrongdoing, according to the report.

Senior State Police officers have cleared their troopers in 55 percent of the total crashes and found them partially at fault only about seven percent of the time. They have been found to have caused the crash about 19 percent of the time, the report said, citing crash records.

"I think inherently you can't investigate yourself ... you can't be objective," Delaney told WBZ-TV. "I think that might be a glitch in the system."

Even when troopers are cleared of causing the accident, the circumstances can still raise questions.

Michael Benson of Weston claims he was making a left turn off Park Drive in Boston during rush hour in April 2006, when he was struck in his left passenger side by motorcycle Trooper Joaquin Miranda.

Miranda, 48, has had seven crashes since August 2001, according to the data. He has never been found at fault, according to the report.

The officer was cleared of his latest accident in February by Sgt. Dennis Bertulli, who was sanctioned by his bosses for plowing into a pedestrian at this year's Boston Marathon.

Other troopers have had repeat accidents in which they were the only motorist involved. Trooper Matthew Croteau, 34, has had five crashes in four years, including four single-vehicle crashes in which he lost control of his cruiser. The officer has been found at fault four times — twice on patrol, once while commuting and once off duty, according to WBZ-TV.

Dennis Kenney, a former police officer and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said police officers are given vehicles and are allowed to exceed the speed limit under certain circumstances, including emergency situations.

"The assumption I think the citizens have is that they are qualified to do so," Kenney said. "If they are having problems with accidents, that would suggest they may not be qualified to do so, which puts all of us at risk."

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