From Casey Grove in Anchorage --
Anchorage police have initiated an internal investigation of an officer's sloppy driving Tuesday night after an Eagle River resident's complaint, sent to police and local news media.
David Moore's criticism came by email with a link to a YouTube video shot by his wife, Jessica, on their drive from Anchorage to Eagle River about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday. They make the same drive just about every night, he said in a phone interview.
It started on the Glenn Highway.
Moore said he watched the officer making sudden lane changes, slowing and speeding up for no apparent reason, and cutting off a pickup just before the Hiland Road exit. After the exit, the officer appeared to be glancing at the laptop mounted in his car, Moore said.
As they continued on Eagle River Loop Road, Moore told his wife to grab his iPhone and start recording.
Here's the video, with Moore's comments:
In the video, Moore pulls up next to the officer's patrol car. He says the officer was eating, though that's not clear from the footage.
"I could see him eating something, and actually chewing," Moore said in the interview. "I don’t know what he was eating. He had something.”
The patrol car then almost hit Moore's vehicle, Moore said.
Police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said the video and complaint are under investigation by the police department's Internal Affairs unit, which looks into all complaints, everything from rudeness to poor driving, Parker said.
The officer apparently told his supervisor that he was eating, not looking at his laptop, said Parker, the police spokesman. The officer's name will not be released, and the results of any internal investigation will not be made public, Parker said.
Parker had seen the video and conceded that if he witnessed a private citizen driving similarly, he would likely pull the person over.
But was it enough for a citation?
"It all depends on the situation and the circumstances surrounding it," he said.
Moore said he's on the Glenn Highway often, and it wasn't the first time he's seen an officer driving and apparently distracted by their computer or something else.
"But I’ve never seen an officer doing that, that far, almost hit a car then almost hit me when I pass him," Moore said. "I understand they're cops, so they have to know what's going on, but they’re risking people’s lives."
Officers are trained and graded on multi-tasking while driving, and that includes using their in-car laptops, Parker said. There is no specific policy against officers using phones while driving, and state law allows an exception for the drivers of emergency vehicles to use devices with screens in their vehicles, he said.
"We don’t have a policy about eating or drinking coffee while we’re driving. But we’re supposed to drive carefully," Parker said. "Our policy is we try to drive as carefully as possible.”
Still, Parker said, "You can’t drive a half-million miles in a police car in that environment and not bump into something sooner or later."
The internal investigation comes about five months after Police Chief Mark Mew rear-ended another vehicle at a stop light while checking his phone. The low-speed collision resulted in minor injuries for the other driver and a reprimand for Mew.
About 5 p.m. Wednesday, Moore said he had not heard back from police. Here is the email he sent them, and local media:
While driving home to Eagle River from Anchorage today, I observed an officer 2 cars in front of me. While behind him, I noticed the car was all over the road, swaying from one side of the lane to the other. A few times, the officer crossed lanes. The officer went from the far left lane, to the middle lane. He slowed down multiple times, braked multiple times and then after moving from the middle lane to the right lane, he slowed and sped up. This caused traffic to slow down and even caused some issues as drivers didn't know if he was going to cross into their lanes.
After watching this for a while, I decided to record it all. Once we left the highway at the Hiland exit, I started recording. The officer did not maintain a certain speed, he braked to an almost stop for no reason as no cars were near him. He crossed over the lanes and at one point almost hit a passing truck (it's on video) and almost hit me once I had to move over due to his driving. At first thought, I figured he was on his cell phone or computer, but as I got next to him, he was eating.
After the incident with the officer last year messing with his cell phone (I won't mention names) and bumping the car in front of him, it makes me wonder if officers have more distractions than necessary.
If everyday people have to obey the laws, officers should as well. IF this was ME driving, I would have been ticketed or warned for unsafe driving, and it would have been automatically assumed that I was on a cell phone.
I am sending the direct link to the video.