Denver Police Accident Settlements Cost Taxpayers

City Councilman Calls For Change

Denver police car accidents are costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2010.

Tonight, the Denver City Council agree to pay out the sixth and seventh settlements this year for crashes involving Denver Police officers, totaling $428,000.

"It's very frustrating," said Mollie Kwasinski, who more than two years after her crash is still in physical therapy. "I'm in different amounts of pain every day just because of the way the bone healed."

She is one of the seven cases to be paid this year after an accident with a DPD officer.

"There have been people killed. There have been people significantly injured," said City Councilman Doug Linkhart.

He saw the aftermath of one crash just a block from his house, where a Denver police office ran a red light, crashing into a car and killing a man.

"I talk to people all the time who say they see officers speeding without their lights on, and they can only do that if it's a real emergency," said Linkhart.

A Denver police spokesman said the crashes being settled now happened two or three years ago, and injury accidents are down as much at 60 percent (year to date) since 2007.

"We saw it was an issue, and we've taken an aggressive stance, not only in discipline, but in training," said Lt. Matthew Murray, Denver police spokesman. "We're actually seeing a dramatic decrease in police car accidents in the past few years."

Councilman Linkhart agreed that Denver police accidents are down in the last three years, but said if you look back a little further -- the last six years -- the number of accidents has remained constant.

He wants police to focus more on preventing the preventable accidents, which account for about half of all the officer-involved crashes.

Murray pointed out that Denver police have more than a thousand patrol cars out 24-7 in all kinds of weather, so accidents are going to happen.

He also said DPD makes recruits go through 55 hours of defensive driving, well over what the state requires.

But for those who've felt the impact, that's not enough.

"They need to see how it affects people's lives. It's more than just a random accident for them," said Kwasinski.