An Indianapolis lawmaker is hoping to make it easier for police to help out motorists in need without the threat of being held responsible for damages.
Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, has drafted legislation that would protect police officers and their departments from liability should they help a motorist and something gets broken, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.
Speedy told RTV6 on Tuesday that he got the idea after a constituent locked herself out of her car with several Indianapolis police officers nearby.
"There were at least three other police cars in the parking lot and law enforcement officers wanted to help her, and told her to call dispatch," Speedy said. "The dispatcher said, 'We can't help you because of liability concerns.'"
Catherine Cummings, a spokeswoman with the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety, told RTV6 that the department does not have a written policy when it comes to roadside assistance, but that officers try to help out when possible.
"We're never limited with helping a citizen," she said. "What that help involves varies from call-to-call and situation-to-situation."
Still, some police departments are shying away from providing assistance for fear they will be sued.
Indiana State Police Capt. Dave Bursten told RTV6 that the agency is moving away from helping citizens unlock vehicles because improved vehicle technology makes it difficult to get in and because of potential liability.
Carmel police said they receive five to 10 requests a week for help with locked vehicles.
"We have to prioritize our calls, so if there's a more pressing call out there, we will go to that first," said Lt. Jeff Horner.
But, overall, the department sees the service as good community relations.
"We verbally talk to them and tell them we're not liable for any damage as a result of us trying to get into the car," Horner siad. "From my knowledge, we've never had an issue where someone has come back and say we broke something."
Locksmith Barry Campbell charges $65 for most car unlock calls in Marion County. He is opposed to the legislation, saying it will hurt businesses.
"To me, it's a very bad idea because I've got 80 different tools I use to get into vehicles without damage," Campbell said. "I've come across where the police have disconnected rods, and I go in and unlock the door, and it won't open because it's already damaged."
Speedy said his bill isn't meant to put locksmiths out of business.
"The intent of the law is to encourage law enforcement officers to help law-abiding citizens," he said.
The bill has been folded into another bill, which should receive its third reading in a few days.
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