Thursday, February 23, 2006

Completely mishandled

This hasn't been a good week for the Howard County Police Department. First quotas, now this:

Howard County police mistakenly identified a bottle found in the wreckage of a single-car accident that killed an Ellicott City teenager Friday as alcohol when it was, in fact, tanning lotion, said spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said today.

Llewellyn also said that investigators even tagged the Emerald Bay tanning "cocktail" -- which is packaged to look like liquor -- as alcohol in the county's property room. They realized the mistake today.
When I first read this story this morning, I was livid. I've since taken time to calm down, and I'm still livid.

It's bad enough that the driver of the car, Theresa Rayburn, was seriously injured and lost her best friend, Michele Iampieri, in the accident. On top of that the police, instead of verifying their facts (or bothering to at least open the bottle of "alcohol"), rush to get information to the (impatient) press, which circulates widely as fact the notion that the accident was "alcohol-related." So much for the presumption of innocence.

However, not wishing to fully rescind their story just yet, the department is sticking by it's belief that alcohol was a contributing factor, which it may ultimately prove to be. What information are they basing this assertion on?
(Llewellyn) said investigators still believe that alcohol, along with speed, was a factor in the crash and that investigators on the scene detected an "odor of alcohol" when they approached the metallic gray 2005 Volkswagen Beetle.
An "odor of alcohol?"

I understand that police officers are on the scene of many accidents and probably have a pretty keen sense of what went on. But as someone who's been in a few accidents in his life, I don't know how there's any way they could pick out the smell of alcohol from the myriad other odors present in a wreck -- burned rubber and brake pads, antifreeze, and gasoline, to name a few of the more pungent ones.

There's no getting around the fact that what happened was tragic. And if alcohol proves to be a factor -- something we'll know for sure when the blood tests come back -- then it becomes even more regrettable. But the shoddy investigation has only made the situation worse.

The common result of such tragic events is usually an education campaign to teach kids about the dangers of unsafe driving. Following this accident, however, it's not just the kids who need teaching.


Anonymous said...

Hey, when your boss is off considering his run for County Council and nobody seems to care about what they say to reporters, who can blame the poor Howard County Police....

Anonymous said...

ur an ass