An Orange County Sheriff’s Department traffic review committee is close to finishing its review of a questionable collision report involving a deputy and a Lake Forest man just as his story is gathering national attention.
Kevin Halliburton was driving his motorcycle along Bake Parkway in Irvine in December when a sheriff’s deputy drove his patrol in front of Halliburton just after turning on his lights and sirens. While officers at the scene of the resulting crash seemed apologetic toward Halliburton, they wrote a police report that blamed him.
Halliburton secured a videotape of the incident through the state’s public records act. And that contained an odd conversation between deputies on how to give themselves “leeway” on the traffic report.
Voice of OC republished the video from the patrol car.
This weekend, Halliburton’s story went national, with more than 250,000 hits on Reddit, a link-sharing network.
Steve Connolly, executive director of the county’s Office of Independent Review, said his office has been tracking the case. County supervisors are also asking him for his insights.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback on it from different board offices,” Connolly said.
Connolly said “the accident issue and who was at fault was already on OIR’s screen.” He added that a staffer attends the quarterly accident review panel that Sheriff’s Department officials say identified the Halliburton accident before Voice of OC’s inquiries.
Yet the questions raised by the recorded conversations among deputies has prompted the Office of Independent Review to take a deeper look.
“There is going to be some follow up,” Connolly said. “The story is being taken seriously by the department. My office is aware of the incident.”
“We were aware of the incident for several weeks. But the issues with the investigation came to our attention through the story, and we’re working with the department to review the matter and make recommendations about appropriate administrative responses.”
Those responses, Connolly said, could be systemic fixes — such as looking at how reports are written — or even “individual accountability through personnel investigations.”
While Sheriff’s Department officials and Connolly both say the Halliburton accident was on their radar screen and was flagged for review, neither has any idea why the review hasn’t been completed nearly a year later, despite the existence of a county claim by Halliburton.
Connolly also said he is looking into why Halliburton wasn’t advised of the traffic review panel that is looking into his case.
“The department has come a long way in its willingness to look at its own systems and acknowledge mistakes,” he said. “But there’s certainly room for making that process more responsive to the public.”