Bill would allow 'fender benders' to be handled without police

Council wants NOPD to ignore 'fender benders'

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The City Council wants to free NOPD officers from having to respond to some fender benders in an effort to increase their presence on the street fighting violent crime.

In a unanimous vote, council members approved a resolution supporting House Bill 417 which, if passed, would only require New Orleans police to respond to accidents involving a death or injury; when a driver refuses to exchange information or doesn't have a license, insurance or registration; or if a driver is suspected of being impaired.

"It would allow a city like New Orleans to best use its resources, and I think it's really smart, it's good policing. We have a diminished police department right now," Councilman Jason Williams said.

Other city leaders agreed that police shouldn't be called for a minor accident.

"Basically, it really is putting the police officer in a position of assisting an insurance company, and that's just not necessary and at this point in time. It's not in the interest of public safety," Councilwoman Susan Guidry said.

But some insurance agents urge their clients never to leave a scene without a police report, saying the reports limit abuse and fraudulent claims and often can settle a petty "he-said, she said" situation.

"You need to see who's responsible for the car accident, for the insurance company, so the insurance company can have a proper decision on who's at fault," said Steve Zhang, a New Orleans driver.

Other drivers would rather see police shift their efforts to more violent crimes.

"It would give officers enough time to go to things that are more important instead of just going to a fender bender," said Wanda Williams, another local driver.

The NOPD said it can save as many as 10,000 man hours a year by making the shift, noting that officers responded to nearly 14,000 minor crashes last year, all without injury.

"You're taking a police officer off the street for quite a bit of time to respond to an automobile accident, which means they can't respond to a murder, rape or armed robbery," Councilman Williams said.

The bill has yet to be discussed in Baton Rouge.Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.

Another bill, HB 418, would allow NOPD to hire civilians to direct traffic, but would not allow them to write citations.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.