Knoxville police no longer working most wrecks as of today

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Source: Knoxville Police Department

As of this morning, Knoxville Police Department officers will no longer respond to routine traffic accidents that don’t involve injuries. 

The decision was first announced early last month by newly appointed KPD Chief Paul Noel, who explained that patrol officers would stop working minor, non-injury crashes unless a car is disabled in the roadway and requires a tow truck or other factors — such a suspected intoxicated driver — are involved.

“Minor, non-injury crashes occupy a lot of our officers’ time and minimize our ability to respond more quickly to higher priority calls or conduct proactive traffic enforcement initiatives to actually prevent serious crashes from happening,” Noel said when announcing the change, which upended decades of policy. “We want to recapture that time so that we can focus our efforts on being visible in city neighborhoods and addressing violent crime.”

The decision to revamp the policy came after a recent analysis of crash data showed that KPD officers were responding to approximately 9,500 minor crashes a year, said KPD spokesperson Scott Erland. 

That adds up to 26 wrecks a day, with each one requiring an officer to spend at least 45 minutes to an hour driving to the scene, gathering the relevant information and completing the accident report, he explained. 

“If we could reclaim any of the time, that gives us more time to address public safety issues,” he said.

When asked if the department’s chronic problems with understaffing played a role in the decision, Erland replied, “Some. Staffing is a piece of it, but only a piece.”

The change in policy isn’t expected to be permanent, he continued, and Knoxville residents should already be familiar with the new rules because they’re similar to the ones that go into effect whenever KPD’s Severe Weather Plan is activated. They’re also the same rules that were put in place for a year due to the pandemic.

“This is really similar to things we’ve used before,” he said. “I hope people realize this sounds like a much bigger change than it actually is.”

Officers will continue to respond to crashes that result in injury or death, involve a suspected intoxicated driver, involve an unlicensed or uninsured driver, or that result in a disabled vehicle in the road.

“If someone’s uncooperative or disorderly, we’ll be coming to that,” he said. 

If drivers are involved in a non-injury crash that doesn’t involve any of the aforementioned factors, they should move their car out of the road to a safe location, and “civilly exchange information” with each other, stated Erland.

Also, motorists should take cell phone photos of the crash scene as well as any property damage, and the pictures should be shared with their respective insurance companies. 

If all goes well, this is the morning that commuters will finally be able to once again drive straight down Broadway and into downtown Knoxville, authorities said. 

Published on September 1, 2022.