A Lesson Learned the Hard Way—One Agency’s Recommendations for Increasing Seat Belt Use

The end of 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of one of the worst losses of life in the history of the Los Angeles, California, Police Department (LAPD). Three Los Angeles police officers lost their lives in an on-duty collision that forever impacted the department and the officers’ families.

In the early morning hours of December 12, 1988, what seemed to be another ordinary evening in Central Division suddenly turned tragic. At approximately 3:55 a.m., an undercover unit broadcast that they were following a stolen vehicle with four suspects, and they requested backup. Two officers in one patrol car drove toward the backup request, northbound on Wall Street. As they entered the intersection at 5th Street, another pair of officers in a separate patrol car, travelling eastbound the wrong way on a one-way street, entered the intersection at the same time and collided with the other patrol car. The collision took place on streets immediately adjacent to the Central Police Station. The force of the impact caused one car to careen into a light pole, ejecting the officers, and the other car landed in a nearby construction ditch. First responders described the scene as a “war zone of chaos and confusion.” Rescue efforts quickly turned to the recovery of the deceased.