Officers buckle up, too
If you’ve ever been handed a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt, you may have wondered to yourself (or aloud) whether the cop who pulled you over was strapped in.
Whether or not the officer who wrote your ticket buckled up, chances are they were told to.
Though drivers and passengers are required by state law to wear their seatbelts, the law provides an exemption for emergency personnel. However, many police departments require their employees to buckle up, nonetheless.
“To ensure the safety of all personnel, our policy is that safety belts shall be worn by all employees and passengers at all times (while riding in a vehicle),” said Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. Haigh said the policy covers police officers, arrestees, and anybody else riding in a vehicle on police business.
A recent article from the Associated Press pointed out that about 50 percent of police officers do not wear their seatbelts when driving police vehicles. It went on to name car accidents the leading cause of on-duty officer fatalities.
Haigh said some of a cruiser’s equipment can become additional hazards in an accident.
“Cruisers have equipment like computers, ticket printers, microphones and the controls for the siren and lights,” riding up front with the driver, said Haigh. “A seatbelt helps prevent you from hitting those things as well.”
Haigh said bulletproof vests also provide officers with an extra layer of protection in an accident.
While anyone in a moving vehicle runs the risk of a collision, police spend a large part of their shifts in cars, often rushing to dangerous situations on less-than-ideal roads.
Sometimes, a seatbelt can make it difficult to make a quick exit from an emergency vehicle.
“Our gear can get caught up in the seatbelt at times,” Haigh said. “There’s a lot of stuff hanging off of our (utility) belts.”
Northfield Police Chief Robert Leighton said there’s an easy solution to that — officers are allowed to unbuckle as they approach their destinations.
“In an emergency situation, an officer has to make that judgment call,” Leighton said. “As far as being on patrol, or responding somewhere, all employees of our town and police department are required to wear safety belts.”