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I-Team: MBTA Police Give Bus Drivers Preferential Treatment

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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BOSTON (CBS) – There are questions about the actions of MBTA Police officers when it comes to accident investigations. The I-Team has found MBTA bus drivers appear to be getting preferential treatment. Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve found it is not because they are always obeying the rules of the road.

Aimee Leigh Collins couldn’t believe what happened to her.

“She rammed right into the back of you?” Shortsleeve asked.

“Yes, literally rammed right into the back of me,” Collins said.

She is talking about an MBTA bus, that January night three years ago, Collins’s Honda Civic was basically crushed on Route 3 in Burlington.

Collins says, “she catapulted me into the northbound lane where I hit a minivan head on.”

Collins was nearly killed and spent months in a wheelchair. Her insurer’s accident reconstruction expert found the MBTA bus driver never even tried to slow down concluding, “there was no indication of any brake application.”

The bus driver was never charged. “It enrages me,” Collins says.

Why wasn’t the MBTA driver cited? You see, unless someone dies, MBTA Police exclusively investigate all MBTA crashes. And sources tell the I-Team, MBTA Police officers are instructed very early in their training not to write citations to their own bus drivers.

Shortsleeve asked an unidentified MBTA Police officer what police supervisors instruct their officers to do.

“You don’t write bus drivers,” the source said. “And if you do, the ticket will be taken care of later.”

The veteran MBTA Police officer who did not want to be identified says he has seen it happen many many times.

The officer says there are, “many times where a bus driver should have received a citation.”

For example, documents obtained by the I-Team show on October 5, 2012 an MBTA bus hit a woman in a Cambridge crosswalk and was “dragged approximately 20 and a half feet.” The MBTA driver admitted it saying, “he struck her with the buses right front bumper.” A witness said he was going “really fast” as he made the turn. Sources say Cambridge Police insisted the MBTA driver be issued a citation, so he was. But later, it was “retracted and subsequently not issued.”

On April 23, 2011, a video camera on board an MBTA bus confirmed “the bus making contact with the pedestrian.” The victim told the I-Team the wheels climbed a Cambridge sidewalk and the bus knocked her down. Yet the original MBTA Police report quoted the driver as saying, “The injured party lost her footing and she fell backward near the bus rear bumper, but at no time did she make actual contact with the bus.”

That MBTA driver was also not cited.

“Why aren’t there any cases going to court?” the unidentified officer asked. “Out of the hundreds of cases that we have booked, how come they never find a bus driver at fault at all?”

The MBTA has never denied these allegations, and would not talk to us on camera, in a prepared statement to the I-Team, the MBTA would only say, “The facts and circumstances dictate whether a citation is justified or not. Similar to police officers in other departments, Transit Police officers, with guidance from supervisory personnel, use their discretion in deciding whether a citation is warranted.”

As far as Aimee Leigh Collins is concerned, the MBTA actually charged her criminally with negligent operation. She challenged them in court and won, a judge dismissing all charges. She has now filed a civil lawsuit against the MBTA.

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