High-tech driver ed for Philadelphia police

March 30, 2009 4:03:24 PM PDT
Recent police-related crashes, two of them deadly, are sending officers back to driving school.

Philadelphia Police Department statistics show that after falling from 1998 to 2005, the number of police-involved crashes has been on the rise over the past three years.

In 2005, there were 612 crashes. Last year, the number was up 20 percent, to 731.

As a result, the department has begun training officers on a state-of-the-art simulator. The 50-hour program at the Police Academy allows no time for slow reactions or mistakes.

"When you go get your permit, they teach you how to crawl," said Lt. William Walls of the Police Academy. "When you take lessons and go get your license they're teaching you how to walk. We don't teach you how to crawl or walk here. We teach you how to run."

That's where the Advanced Mobil Operation System or AMOS, comes in. Last September, a week before officer Isabel Nazario was killed in a car accident, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey asked for a plan to reduce accidents. Re-training officers on this more advanced system has become part of that plan.

In addition to any officer involved in an accident, police who have spent less than five years on the force will train on the AMOS. Statistics show officers are more likely to get into accidents. A police spokesperson said that can be attributed to lack of driving experience before they enter the police academy.

"We started an advanced emergency vehicle course," said Walls. "That is a course where we bring officers that are already out on the street up for a refresher course."

The advanced Mobile operation System has been in place for two years. It has shown promising results in California. Police hope that re-training more officers on the simulator will have the same results here in Philadelphia, reducing both the number and severity of police-related accidents.

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