Officer Matthews Cleared for Light Duty Work, but Remains on Leave

October 8, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

She has apparently been given a medical clearance to perform light duty work, but Smithville Police Officer Callie Matthews remains on leave.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says there are currently no light duty police officer jobs in the department and he has not yet been instructed by the Board of Aldermen to put her back to work.

And while a reconstruction accident report has been compiled by the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Critical Incident Response Team, the city's liability insurance carrier will likely seek a second opinion with another independent reconstruction of the accident

Matthews was responding to a prowler call on April 23rd at around 11:30 p.m. when her patrol car collided with an oncoming car, driven by Andrew Ferris. The crash killed Ferris and seriously injured Officer Matthews and a passenger of Ferris' car, Brian Webber.

The following is the report by Sergeant Keven Norris, C.I.R.T. member and reconstructionist with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

"The following conclusions were drawn after examination of all known physical evidence and review of witness accounts of the event that occurred on Foster Road in DeKalb County."

"On the above date, (April 23rd, 2007), at approximately 11:30 p.m., Officer Callie Matthews with the Smithville Police Department was responding to a call and traveling north on Foster Road in a 2001 Ford Crown Victoria police unit."

"Andrew Ferris was operating a Kia Rio passenger car southbound on Foster Road with Brian Webber as a front seat passenger."

"The road surface was dry asphalt with no pavement markings"

"Matthews, upon topping a slight hill crest, locked the brakes on the Ford allowing it to veer to the left of center where it collided with the Kia passenger car."

"The approach angle of the pre-impact skid indicated the Kia was approaching from the center of the roadway when the impact occurred. The skid length is approximately 15 feet."

"Skid marks from the Ford Crown Victoria were approximately 91 feet in length leading up to the impact and were at an angle from the north bound side of the roadway to the southbound side."

"A minimum speed was calculated for both vehicles. The Ford Crown Victoria had a minimum speed of 66 miles per hour, while the Kia was at 16 miles per hour."

"The Ford Crown Victoria was a marked patrol unit and was utilizing its blue lights as emergency equipment."

"Blood samples were taken from the deceased and analyzed for drugs and alcohol. Alcohol tested negative and only drugs administered by emergency medical personnel were present."

"Based on what is known, it is my opinion that the Ferris vehicle was in the center of the roadway, and when the Matthews vehicle came into view, this resulted in a reaction by Matthews which caused her to lock the brakes and go into a skid. The Ford vehicle driven by Matthews was not equipped with an anti-lock braking system, therefore the steering ability of the vehicle would have been inhibited. Ferris was traveling at a slower speed and steered back into the southbound lane before being struck. The Matthews vehicle was traveling at a speed greater than the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour for this particular section of roadway which was also a contributing factor to this crash.'

Sometime before he resigned, former Police Chief Tom Stufano wrote a memorandum to Mayor Hendrixson concerning the accident. In it, Stufano wrote that "The original THP investigation states that Officer Matthews was not using her siren which is mandated by law."

"In review of the preliminary information, although Officer Matthews was acting in good faith during her response, the investigation will show that she has violated both City of Smithville Police Policy and State Law due to her excessive speed and non-compliance and usage of emergency equipment while in emergency response. As a result of her actions, a resident of our city was killed."

"It is my recommendation that upon final conclusion and submittal of the Tennessee Highway Patrol Accident Report, a review board be established so that a review of the totality of the accident can be formulated, and if the findings are conclusive that Officer Matthews did violate emergency response policy, she be discharged from the City of Smithville Police Department."

A Circuit Court lawsuit was filed in June against the City of Smithville, the Police Department, and Police Officer Matthews.

Ferris' mother, Angela Ferris, is suing individually and as next of kin to her son.

Ferris basically claims that the officer was negligent in following city policies and state laws regarding public safety and that the city has failed to properly train and discipline it's officers, including Matthews.

She is seeking a judgment for compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, as well as attorney fees.

Ms. Ferris claims that Officer Matthews failed to follow established departmental policies regarding the use and operation of that vehicle and it's safety/emergency equipment and that she was traveling at a very high rate of speed.

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