Linskey: Driving mayor through red light in non-emergency is outside police policy

BOSTON — Using emergency lights to get an elected official through traffic quickly has been an acceptable practice by Boston Police for decades, according to former BPD Superintendent-in-Chief Dan Linskey.

However, the practice is outside of BPD’s policy and procedure, Linskey said. Rule 302 in the Boston Police Rules and Procedures deals with emergency driving, but there’s no section outlining when a public official or other dignitary is in the vehicle.

“It’s not in our policies and procedures. It’s outside of that, but it’s an acceptable practice and procedure when it’s done appropriately,” Linskey said. “However, there are consequences when it’s not safe and that’s the balancing act.”

The issue is front and center after Mayor Michelle Wu and her driver, Boston Police Ofc. Keyanna Smith was caught on video using blue police lights to enter a busy intersection while the traffic light was red. The maneuver resulted in a collision involving a mother and her child. There is ambient audio on the crash video, although it appears to be noise from the cell phone recording and not the traffic camera itself.

According to BPD policy, an officer during an emergency and while in performance of a public duty, “may drive such vehicle through an intersection of ways contrary to any traffic signs or signals regulating traffic at such intersection if he first brings such vehicle to a full stop and then proceeds with caution and due regard for the safety of persons and property.”

Linskey said Mayor Wu’s driver Tuesday did not appear to enter the intersection safely.

“The police vehicle did not proceed cautiously through that intersection as it should have,” Linskey said. “That’s not the way the vehicle should have been operated. That’s a training issue, an internal discipline issue.”

But Linskey said the officer is not entirely to blame. Officers can often feel pressure from powerful people to get where they need to go fast, and Linskey said he has personal experience. He admits he used his lights to run red lights “a hundred times” while driving for the then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

“I’ve been that officer in the front seat driving the mayor or other officials around and used my emergency lights to get to an event,” Linskey said. “You can’t put it all on the police officer.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story reported that there was audio on the recording of the crash that Boston 25 News had obtained, and that audio didn’t pick up any sirens.  Upon further examination, it appears that the audio was ambient noise from the cell phone recording of the surveillance video, and not from the traffic camera itself.  We apologize for the error.

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