Bad optics for police, TTC to investigate crashes in tandem
By Kirsten McMahon, AdvocateDaily.com Managing Editor
It’s not appropriate for police to work in concert with transit authorities when investigating injuries or fatalities involving public transit vehicles, especially when the driver may be subject criminal or Highway Traffic Act charges, Toronto critical injury lawyer Patrick Brown tells AdvocateDaily.com.
“It’s just a bad idea,” says Brown, partner with McLeish Orlando LLP, pointing to a recent pedestrian fatality involving a public transit vehicle.
The Toronto Star reports a woman in her 60s died after she was fatally struck by a TTC bus near Bloor Street East and Sherbourne Street. A spokesperson for Toronto police traffic services said they found the victim with serious injuries and transported her to hospital, where she later died.
“We’re working with that bus and with the folks from the TTC to determine how the bus came in contact with the woman,” the spokesperson said.
Brown, an advocate for vulnerable road users, questions the optics of having two bodies paid by the same municipal authority working in tandem in crash investigations.
“The victim has no voice — who is investigating on her behalf?” he says, noting that in his experience charges are rarely laid against TTC drivers.
“There’s a real problem with the preservation of videotapes on vehicles,” Brown adds.
As of Jan. 28, 2019, external-facing cameras on TTC buses and streetcars are activated. In a statement, the transit agency says these cameras will be primarily used to capture vehicle-pedestrian and vehicle-vehicle incidents.
The statement adds that regarding police access to video footage, the TTC will release video to law enforcement agencies for any incident that is directly related to the transit authority. Data will be retained for a period of 72 hours on buses and streetcars, and the video footage that is not downloaded will be overwritten on a rolling basis — similar to internal camera footage on vehicles.
While it’s good news that TTC vehicles are now equipped with external-facing cameras, Brown says he hopes the issues around the preservation are addressed. “Tapes should be automatically preserved and access provided to all victims whenever a crash occurs and a person is injured,” he says.
“I had one case where according to the TTC, the police agreed with the TTC that they didn't have to preserve the tape of an incident after a transit driver struck and killed someone. In that case, there was evidence that pointed fault directly the TTC for failing to stop their bus when other cars had," he says.
“I can’t think of any other scenario where suspects in road fatalities have their boss attended the scene with their internal investigators and work with the police,” Brown adds.