An hour after receiving a Silver Merit Award for his actions in rescuing a suspect from a burning vehicle, a well-decorated Evansville Police officer is suspended for four days because of his driving. According to police records, Officer Ryan Winters has been involved in six accidents in which he was determined to be at fault.
The accident prompting Winters' four day suspension happened when he collided with a parked vehicle while responding to assist in a pursuit, according to police records. Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin recommended that Winters be suspended for four days. At their meeting Monday afternoon, the Police Merit Commission upheld the chief's recommendation.
Back in 2012, Winters received disciplinary action for being at fault for an accident, making this the second offense during what's called the reckoning period. According to the department's Rules and Regulations Manual, the 'reckoning period' is a three year window during which an employee is expected to have a record free of any offenses similar to the one in which the officer was previously found guilty.
In total, Winters has been at fault for six accidents, according to police records. He has also been required to undergo remedial training for driving an emergency vehicle, Sgt. Jason Cullum said.
Officers can drive hundreds of thousands of miles each year, many of which are in adverse driving conditions. Officers are frequently involved in runs that require them to respond as quickly as possible. However, the department and the public hold officers to a higher standard, said Sgt. Jason Cullum.
"When you do have an officer that's been involved in multiple wrecks, we have an obligation to everybody -- including that officer -- to make sure that we're doing what we need to do to prevent any future accidents or any injuries," Sgt. Cullum said. "Whenever we have an officer involved in a wreck, some of the feedback we get from the public is along the lines that officers feel like they're above the law. There are times we are allowed to violate traffic code but none of us are above the laws of physics. If you wreck the car, it's going to damage the car. If you wreck bad enough, it's going to hurt you."
Winters elected not to appeal his four day suspension.