READING (CBS) – A Reading police officer is under investigation after a photo appears to show him using a cell phone while driving a police cruiser.
A local woman claims she took the picture recently while traveling through Reading Square at about 25 miles an hour. She said she was a passenger in a car and the officer was driving beside her in his cruiser at the same speed.
In the photo, the unidentified officer is seen behind the wheel looking down at a cell phone in his left hand.
Reading’s police chief says he’s determined to figure out exactly what the officer was doing at the moment this photo was taken.
The woman, who did not want to be identified, posted the photo on Facebook, saying “so bad our police are breaking the law!”
The post has been shared more than 700 times and it got the attention of Police Chief Mark Segalla, who issued this statement:
“I have been made aware of a photograph that was sent to members of the news media that depicts a Reading Police Officer, driving a marked police cruiser, holding a cell phone in his left hand.
“As police chief, I appreciate the diligence of citizens to bring something like this forward. The Reading Police Department, at my direction, has begun an investigation to determine exactly what is happening in this photo.
“We are not looking to rush to judgment – at this early stage we do not know if the vehicle was being driven or was parked along the side of the road — but if the investigation shows that the officer was driving while using a mobile device, we will address that violation appropriately.
“I want to take a moment to address the greater concept of distracted driving. We have relatively new laws banning texting and handheld phone use while driving. Police are engaged in an aggressive enforcement campaign to stop and prevent distracted driving, and certainly we must set the example.
“I think one of the major problems we face as a culture is that the urge to grab your cell phone is so ingrained in us. The temptation is so great to reach for the phone or even glance down at it. If we are going to change our bad habits, it is going to take a deep cultural shift, and we all have to look inwards.
“The fact is that it is too easy to get distracted for even a second, and that is all you need to have a tragic result. So, we are going to investigate this incident, but we are going to use it, and work with our partners in the media, as a way to spread a message to everyone that we need to put the phones down.”
Segalla said the officer was off-duty at the time this incident came to his attention.
The department will get the officer’s side of the story when he is back at work.