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State Police investigate fatal crash involving off-duty officer

The Michigan State Police are investigating a fatal accident in which an off-duty state police officer struck and killed a 16-year-old and seriously injured a14-year-old. The local county sheriff's deputies assisted in some of the initial evidence gathering at the scene, but the majority of the investigation into the crash will be conducted by the state police. This has raised some eyebrows as people question whether the Michigan State Police can objectively investigate a member of their own department.

According to news reports the two teens were pushing a moped along the shoulder of a rural road. The moped had broken down and, unable to fix it, they began to push. The officer, who was off-duty and driving his personal car, then struck the two teens from behind. The 16-year-old was taken to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The 14-year-old required surgery but his injuries are not expected to be life threatening.

Often after a significant accident, law enforcement officials will conduct an investigation into the cause of the crash. This investigation involves a great deal of gathering evidence from the scene, inspecting the vehicles interviewing witnesses. In this case, because of the involvement of one of their own officers, some are questioning whether another police agency should be leading the investigation.

A Michigan law professor interviewed for a local news story indicates that having a law enforcement agency investigate a crash involving its own officer is somewhat unusual. While conceding that the state police department is a large organization with many officers that may not know each other, it is almost always a better practice to have a completely objective party conduct the investigation to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

Source: WOOD Channel 8 News, "MSP to investigate trooper-moped crash," Dani Carlson, Spet. 1, 2011

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