The head of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has called for an emergency review of safety policies after on-the-job deaths of six officers in the last five months – the most recent struck and killed over the weekend by a suspected drunk driver, reports the Los Angeles Times. Calling the string of deaths unprecedented, Commissioner Michael Brown said all patrol officers in the state would be debriefed within 48 hours to determine whether immediate changes are needed in department policy to prevent more fatalities. Normal patrols will continue during the so-called stand down, although all officers are being offered grief counseling.
One issue whether it is safer for officers to make traffic stops at off-ramps rather than on freeway shoulders. Other questions include whether CHP cars need better emergency warning lighting (there is debate about whether enhanced lighting actually makes the freeway less safe by distracting drivers), and whether officers should drive solo or have partners. Over the last two decades, CHP officials cannot remember so many deaths in such a short period. CHP statistics show that two to four officers are killed in most years. The most CHP fatalities in one year came in 1964, when eight officers were killed – five in traffic accidents and three run over by vehicles.