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When a deputy crashes ...

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Emergency Services Vehicles McHenry County, Illinois

When a deputy crashes ...

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
November 11, 2013

When a deputy is involved in a traffic crash, just how newsworthy is it? Let's say a deputy rolls a squad car, like maybe at high speed? Is that news?

On Friday evening, November 8, at about 10:45PM McHenry County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) Deputy Rachwalski crashed her squad car near Route 31 and Pioneer Road, which would be north of Johnsburg Road and north of the McHenry Township offices.

As of now, the Northwest Herald still has not published any news of that crash, but they know about it. You can totally believe that they know about it.

Word is that she was running "hot"; i.e, with lights and siren. In most, if not all, of the squad cars, when the lights and siren are activated, then the dashboard video recorder is running. In fact, it is always running. When the driver lights up, the recorder captures the previous 60 seconds and continues to record. This is important to save the evidence to be used against a reckless driver, speeder or DUI, so that the deputy will have proof of his reason to stop a traffic violator.

In this case, the dashcam ought to show her driving to the point of the crash and what, if anything, contributed to the crash. Dep. Rachwalski was responding to a call. Lights and siren were on. Thus, the in-car video should have been recording. What does it show?

Dep. Rachwalski is a fairly new deputy with MCSD. Sometimes, deputies like to "go fast". Is that true of her? Does she think that supervisors aren't watching? Are they? Were they?

MCSD has a valuable tool buried in the squad car. The "black box" enables MCSD to know exactly what was going on before the crash. For example, how fast was Dep. Kachwalski traveling at the time she crashed, and what were her speeds before then?

But the black box has to be pulled from the wrecked car and read. When might somebody in charge at MCSD not want that information available? Maybe, like, if it put the Department in a bad light? They could just stick their heads in the sand and say, "We didn't pull the box" (and we don't have to tell you why we didn't).

How badly was the car wrecked? If it was totaled, as it seems to have been, that'll cost, what, $25,-30,000 to replace. Is this her first wreck?

The data from the black box should be pulled right now. Today. MCSD can either be transparent and accountable, or it can continue to withhold information from the public. The longer they attempt to hide it, the worse it looks for them.

Why isn't the Northwest Herald reporting on this? Editors and reporters know about this crash. It happened Friday night. News should have been published on Saturday. This is Monday.

Will Dep. Rachwalski be cited for this crash? Driving too fast for conditions? Failure to maintain control? Just because you are a deputy, you cannot operate a squad car in a reckless or dangerous manner and get away with it. Or can you?

Which prompts me to wonder, who investigated this crash? Illinois State Police? Johnsburg Police or McHenry Police? Or MCSD itself?

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