Distracted cops: Police officers battling more distractions from gadgets on the road

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – Distracted driving is a big problem across the country.

But what happens when some of nation's finest are also distracted when they're out keeping us safe?

Police cruisers these days have so many gadgets they're like an office on wheels.

And that can turn them into a real and sudden danger.

While it's been revealed that distracted cops are a problem nation-wide, WEAU 13 News checked with the Eau Claire Police Department to see what it does to make sure officers’ eyes are kept on the road.

While 39 states and Washington, D.C. ban texting while driving, police are generally exempted.

But from fender benders to deadly accidents, distracted police officers have gotten the blame.

Right now police officers have more distractions than ever in their patrol cars, with cell phones, computers, dash cameras and radios all begging for attention.

“I think every officer if they’ve been on a certain period of time has maybe had that close call. And what we try to do is learn from them,” said Sgt. Travis Quella of the Eau Claire Police Department.

Sgt. Quella said Eau Claire Police officers are trained on when it's appropriate to multi-task on the road.

He says the biggest distraction is their computers.

“We really have hard and fast rules about typing on mobile data computers, and that's to be stopped or be at a very slow speed,” Sgt. Quella said.

He said they go through lots of training scenarios on this.

“We'll have a role player act as a dispatcher and give pertinent information, just at a time as a pedestrian is darting in between a car,” Sgt. Quella said.

A recent study in Minnesota found 17 percent of police accidents there involved distracted officers.

Sgt. Quella said if an officer causes a crash by being distracted they're investigated and ticketed just like any other driver.

“We recognize that the inherent nature of policing makes you distracted to a certain degree. It's how you manage the distractions,” Sgt. Quella said.

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