Yesterday on my way home from work at around 7:15 I observed an Apple Valley police officer (female officer, car #922) drive in what I felt was an unsafe manner from the Apple Valley police station at the corner of Galaxie and 147th to the intersection of Flagstaff and CR-42 only to find themselves stuck in the queue to turn left on CR-42 at Flagstaff due to a red light. While it is understandable that an officer may drive in excess of the speed limit in response to a call, especially when their lights are activated, one has to wonder if doing so when they are not should be as common practice as it apparently seems to be.
In this particular instance I watched as the officer pulled out of the police station in front of me and headed across Galaxie on 147th, changing lanes and accelerating to what appeared to be between 15-20 mph over the posted speed limit of 30 MPH. This particular spot was the location of one of my two speeding tickets in Minnesota (40 in a 30) and one which I am ever conscious of the speed limit.
As the officer stopped at the corner of 147th and Flagstaff, they made the right turn to head up towards CR-42 and appeared to continue to drive in excess of the limit up until the point where they entered the queue caused by the red light at CR-42 to turn left. It was at this point that I was able to catch up to the officer and record the car number as I went past, all the while remaining at, or under the posted speed limit.
When I arrived home I posted my complaint on Twitter:
AVPD female officer in car #922 speeding (~+20) on Flagstaff next to Menard’s. Unacceptable.
Reader Ryan M. responded that perhaps the officer was on a call which dictated they not use their lights or siren. Now this is certainly a valid thought however with the light being red at Flagstaff and CR-42 causing an inevitable backup which allowed a person doing the speed limit to later catch up makes one wonder whether the excessive speed was worth it. In addition, Minnesota statute does allow the operator of an emergency vehicle some leeway with regards to standard rules of the road, although seemingly only when emergency lights are activated:
169.03 EMERGENCY VEHICLES.
Subdivision 1.Scope. The provisions of this chapter applicable to the drivers of vehicles upon the highways shall apply to the drivers of all vehicles owned or operated by the United States, this state, or any county, city, town, district, or any other political subdivision of the state, subject to such specific exemptions as are set forth in this chapter with reference to authorized emergency vehicles.
Subd. 5.Course of duty. No driver of any authorized emergency vehicle shall assume any special privilege under this chapter except when such vehicle is operated in response to any emergency call or in the immediate pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law.
The statute continues with more in 169.17:
The speed limitations set forth in sections 169.14 to 169.17 do not apply to an authorized emergency vehicle responding to an emergency call. Drivers of all emergency vehicles shall sound an audible signal by siren and display at least one lighted red light to the front, except that law enforcement vehicles shall sound an audible signal by siren or display at least one lighted red light to the front. This provision does not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of persons using the street, nor does it protect the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the consequence of a reckless disregard of the safety of others.
It would appear that if the officer was indeed responding to a call and wanted to drive in excess of the speed limit, they should have had their lights or siren activated. While they were consistently pulling away from me, I would have been able to see their lights and likely would have heard the siren–although the second may not be true.
It seems to me that all city representatives should act in accordance with the law regardless of situation, especially when they’re in a marked vehicle. In this particular instance there is a possibility that the officer had a very good reason to be driving well in excess of the limit but being that they weren’t in a big enough rush to preempt the traffic light but only enough to save themselves absolutely no time by speeding based on my ability to catch them at a light later, it seems that they were operating their vehicle in a manner which they probably should not have been.
What do you think about this one? Do you find police officers routinely driving in excess of posted speed limits or otherwise operating their vehicles in a manner which you would say is inappropriate? Do you think that in this particular instance the officer should have activated their sirens/lights? Are there other statutes which may cover such action by the operator of an emergency vehicle which I missed? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.