Society outraged by police negligence behind the wheel, chief apologizes

  • 2005-06-01
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - The warm evening of May 28 ended tragically for a couple seventeen-year-olds in downtown Siauliai. An intoxicated policeman, driving his personal Audi 100, ran over the young couple at a pedestrian crossing and then fled the scene.

The following day, the girl died from serious injuries in a Kaunas clinic, while the other victim remains in a coma.

Having fled the accident, the officer ran into a bus at another intersection. He tried to drive on, but the Audi's engine gave out.

A subsequent blood check showed that his blood-alcohol level was way over the accepted norm. After 15 years of service in the force, the man was suspended from his duties.

Car accidents caused by reckless police officers long ago became commonplace in Lithuania. In Vilnius alone, 64 cases were registered last year in which police officers were found guilty of a driving violation. Twelve were drunk. One of the most serious occurred when a drunk-driving policeman caused fatal injuries to three victims. In another, a policeman injured seven people in one accident. The cop behind the wheel was inebriated at the time of the accident.

Public response to the Siauliai incident was so deafening that the head of police was forced to make a public apology.

"I personally feel terrible shame that we still have officers of this kind in our system. With just one thoughtless action, they erase all good work performed by the police, and they disseminate distrust in the whole system," said Commissar General Vytautas Grigaravicius.

"I hope that the tragic story will force those police officers who still believe to be superior than the law to think," he said.

Last summer, the head of the Vilnius police also asked for public forgiveness after two women were run over by a drunken policeman at an intersection.

"Such stories always raise reasonable discontent in society, and the discontent is even greater when the police officers, who have given oath to safeguard and protect people, behave this way. It's impossible to verbally express the sorrow that people have to experience when they lose a relative," said Grigaravicius.

Sadly, the repentance seemed to fall on deaf ears in the police force. The same day Grigaravicius asked for forgiveness, May 30, a 31-year-old officer knocked down a woman riding on a bicycle in Radviliskis. The victim was treated for a concussion at a Siauliai hospital.

According to the data of the Internal Investigation Council, 2004 saw an increase in car accidents caused by policeman. The data also showed that it was typical for police to conceal serious accidents in which officers played a key role.