A Menlo Park police officer making a U-turn against a red light to respond to an emergency call was involved in a crash with another car on July 18, an incident that sent him to the hospital with minor injuries.
Officer Bradley Schuler, 39, was responding to a disturbance call involving an intoxicated person when the accident occurred on July 18, according to Menlo Park Police Cmdr. Dave Bertini. Officer Schuler, an eight-and-a-half-year veteran of the department, had been driving eastbound on Willow Road shortly after 10 that night when the call came in.
With lights flashing but no siren, Officer Schuler drove from the left-turn pocket at Willow and Newbridge Street to head west on Willow when his patrol car was struck by a Honda Civic driven by Christopher Stables, 27, of Sunnyvale, according to Lt. Joe Wade of the Atherton Police Department, which investigated the incident.
The traffic light was green for through traffic on Willow; Mr. Stables told investigating officers that he was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the patrol car when it entered his lane of travel, Lt. Wade said in an email to the Almanac.
The officer was taken to San Mateo Medical Center, where he was treated and released hours later, Lt. Wade said. Cmdr. Bertini said that Mr. Stables complained of some pain at the scene but wasn't taken to the hospital.
After such an incident is investigated by an outside agency -- in this case a neighboring police department -- the Menlo Park department reviews the findings and, if an officer is found at fault, determines the appropriate "corrective action," which could range from counseling or retraining to a reprimand or more severe action, Cmdr. Bertini said. Because of laws protecting police officer privacy, if any action is taken, the information is confidential, he said.
Cmdr. Bertini said the Menlo Park department equips its patrol vehicles with more lights than are required, but "best practices" dictate that whenever possible, officers should use sirens as well. He said he couldn't reveal the department's conclusions regarding whether a siren would have been appropriate in this case because of confidentiality rules.
He stressed, however, that the department takes "vehicle accidents very, very seriously" out of concern for both officer and public safety. Officers get behind-the-wheel training every two years, he said, noting that a police officer is twice as likely to be killed in a vehicle accident than in an assault.
Police officers are permitted to drive through a red light in an emergency or when going after someone who has violated a law -- for example, running a red light -- but they must do so "with due caution," he said.