Jacksonville undersheriff’s 4 car wrecks prompt discipline, raise questions

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Ben Conark | Florida Times Union

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s second-in-command got into another vehicle accident earlier this month, his fourth one in the last 14 months, landing him before the agency’s Safety Review Board.

The board stripped Undersheriff Patrick Ivey of his take-home vehicle for 10 days and ordered remedial driving training.

The accident occurred just before 8 a.m. Jan. 16 in Oceanway. Ivey stated that he was “adjusting his sunglasses as the light turned green, and he thought [the other vehicle] had proceeded driving again so he started to accelerate.” Ivey said he could not stop in time before hitting the vehicle in front of him. No injuries were reported.

Sheriff’s Office records from the first three accidents, meanwhile, raise questions about how Ivey reported them. 

When an accident occurs and a Sheriff’s Office vehicle is damaged, the office’s policy, last updated in December, stipulates that “the involved member will immediately notify an on-duty supervisor, who will respond to the scene.” 

That policy appears to have been followed in Ivey’s most recent accident, but not with an accident that occurred in November 2016 and two in January 2017. The undersheriff was involved in two accidents on the same day in his driveway in January 2017, setting off the agency’s early warning system, which is designed to notify supervisors of potential problems within their ranks.

No supervisor responded to the driveway accidents, Ivey said. Reports of the accidents were not submitted until the following day.

Ivey didn’t violate the office’s policy that was in place at the time of the first three accidents, said Lt. Chris Brown, of the Professional Oversight Unit, which is responsible for monitoring vehicle crashes by employees. 

“He was within policy to do it the way he did,” Brown said.

The Times-Union requested the policy before it was last changed, but it only received a policy that was updated in late December. Brown said the earlier version wasn’t available Wednesday.

The appearance of impartiality and equal treatment of officers in disciplinary proceedings is especially important in any incident involving the undersheriff, who oversees discipline of the rank and file officers. Ivey himself raised that point in October, when the Times-Union obtained records of his accidents, setting off the early warning system.

At the time, Ivey said there was a perception in the Sheriff’s Office that members of the administration are not held accountable to the extent that rank and file officers are, but when he informed people in the agency that he received the same discipline that any other officer would have received, their “jaws dropped.” 

“It’s encouraging that the system did work for me,” Ivey said in October. “If it’s going to work for anybody, I’m glad it worked for me.” 

After Ivey got into the fender bender on January 16, he was called before the agency’s Safety Review Board because it was his fourth accident in less than three years.

For the November 2016 accident, Ivey said he hit a dog with his vehicle’s front left bumper while traveling at 40 mph. 

“The dog spun and then ran from the scene,” the report said. “The dog was not located.”

Ivey’s vehicle sustained damage to the lower left bumper and the area below the left headlight, the report said. There is no mention of a supervisor responding to the scene. The damage was not photographed until Nov. 29, 2016, some 12 days after the crash.

The driveway crashes occurred twice in the same day on Jan. 5, 2017. Just before noon, Ivey said he was looking down to buckle his seatbelt when the front left corner of his vehicle struck the right side fender of his personal utility trailer, according to the report. Ivey said on Wednesday that he did not take pictures of his trailer because there was no damage to document.

At around 8:30 p.m. that day, Ivey was backing his vehicle in his driveway when the left rear driver door “impacted the right rear corner of my personally owned truck.” There were no photographs of any damage to his truck in the damage assessment for the vehicle. An appraisal report assessed the damage to his assigned vehicle at more than $3,000.

Ivey reported those accidents himself. The first one he reported the same day. For the two in January 2017, he reported them the day after the accidents.

For the latest accident in January of this year, Sgt. W.J. Vanaman responded to the crash scene that day. 

Brown said the rules about reporting crashes were put into place because “line level employees, officers and civilians were writing their own crash reports.” 

“That’s in there to provide a level of oversight,” Brown said.

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