Hugh Pickens writes:
The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against a sheriff’s deputy who fatally struck cyclist Milton Olin Jr. while he was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer. “Wood entered the bicycle lane as a result of inattention caused by typing into his (Mobile Digital Computer),” according to the declination letter prepared by the Justice System Integrity Division of the District Attorney’s Office and released Wednesday. “He was responding to a deputy who was inquiring whether the fire investigation had been completed. Since Wood was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response, under Vehicle Code section 23123.5, he acted lawfully.”
To establish the crime of vehicular manslaughter, prosecutors would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Wood was criminally negligent. While Wood was texting shortly before the collision, there was no evidence he was texting or doing anything else that would have distracted him at the time of the collision. Olin’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, the Sheriff’s Department and the deputy, alleging driver negligence and seeking to obtain more information about the incident. “Just because the law allows someone to do something while driving doesn’t mean they are allowed to do something unsafely while driving,” says Eric Bruins. “Hitting someone from behind is very clear evidence that whatever was going on in that car was not safe and should have been considered negligent.”
Update: A day after prosecutors declined to file charges against a distracted sheriff’s deputy who fatally struck a cyclist in Calabasas in December, an official with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said it is launching its own administrative probe into the deputy’s behavior.
It's not that it's in his job description. It's that it is a specific exception in the law. See California Vehicle Code 23123.5 [ca.gov], specifically subsection (e).
How can it be ``in the course and scope of his duties'' to answer a non-urgent, non-emergency request by typing while driving?
Does the department specifically not have any guidelines suggesting that one pull over to type? If not, why not?
They cover this in the second link. There is a whole spiel about preventing the waste of PD resources or some other similar platitude. The report then proceeds to say that they don't have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The sad thing is this is probably correct and a jury would probably acquit. After all, they acquitted the Fullerton cops. Warms the heart and makes me feel real safe around cops. *puke*
(e) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.
This is a broad statement that can cover everything from a 2-way radio to a cell phone or wireless email. In every other section it explicitly states the type of communications prohibited. Lets have a look at section a:
(a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text–based communication, unless the electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voiceoperated [sic] and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving.
Section 'a' explicitly states text-based messaging including email. Sections b-d describe the limitations and fines. Then e tosses in a broad use case for all wireless communications for emergency services.