BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Police held a press conference Friday to address questions about an officer who crashed his patrol car on the unfinished Westside Parkway.
Chief Greg Williamson said the officer was traveling 62 mph around 7:30 p.m. March 16 when he hit a 14-foot gap in the roadway, which destroyed the front end of his patrol car.
"He came across a gap in the roadway, and was unable to stop in time," Chief Williamson said. "He hit a gap, about a 14-foot gap, in the roadway and the vehicle crashed." The chief said the gap was about 18 inches deep, where the pavement ends at a construction access road.
Officer Richard Davis, a 15-year veteran, took it upon himself to get on the Westside Parkway after construction crews told him about motorcycle riders causing disruptions, Williamson said. On that Saturday evening, the chief said Davis got on the Parkway at about Calloway and Brimhall, and went east for one to two miles.
The chief said there was one witness to the crash, and that person put the officer's speed at 60 miles an hour. Investigators also checked the computer in the wrecked patrol car.
"We pulled the computer form the car, the computer also states that he was going 62 miles per hour at a maxiumum speed," Chief Williamson said. But, he adds the traffic investigation determined that was "an unsafe speed for the conditons that he was in at that point."
Police say Officer Davis called his supervisor after the crash, and a sargeant and two officers responded. Williamson said a construction supervisor took pictures of the wreck, and a tow truck driver who arrived also wanted to take pictures -- but was told not to.
"Never did he (the tow truck driver) state either that he was intimidated to erase photos, in fact he stated he never took photos," Williamson said. "I think there was a mention of intimidation by the officers, but that was never the case."
The chief estimated the new, fully equipped patrol car is probably worth $37,000.
Eyewitness News asked if any motorcycles were found in the area after the wreck, and Chief Williamson said, "No." Asked if the officer was going too fast, considering the situation was not urgent or an emergency, Williamson said that's why an investigation is underway.
"That's why the investigation says he's going at an unsafe speed," the chief said. "And, that's why we handled it internally to determine if disciplinary action is appropriate in this case."
The chief said it's taken time to go through evidence in the car, and to talk with witnesses. He got a report on April 10, and the officer's captain will now complete his report and recommendation.
After that ,the chief will decide if there will be any disciplinary action, and that will probably happen at the end of next week. Williamson said that can range from a verbal reprimand to termination.
If there are any other witnesses to the crash, Bakersfield Police ask them to come forward.