MILLERSVILLE, Md. - An unmarked SUV is how Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis gets around at work. His cell phone is at his fingertips, but Chief Davis says he only talks on the blue tooth while behind the wheel.
"I think the community will see that police officers are bound by the same laws that they're bound by," Chief Davis said.
It's not often a chief turns his back on state law. He thinks his 700 officers should be like the rest of us and use a hands-free device behind the wheel.
Law enforcement officers are exempt, but in a letter to the department on Tuesday Chief Davis said "Police officers must model the driving behaviors we expect from our motorists.”
"When we go through all those driver training scenarios at the police academy and in-service training, we're never on our cell phone," Chief Davis said.
The president of the Fraternal Order of Police has complained about the culture.
"Saying if I'm not allowed to answer my phone, I hope my sergeant and my lieutenant are aware of that because if they call my phone and I don't answer right away I'm getting chewed out at the police station," said Obie Atkinson, president, Anne Arundel County FOP.
Cpl. Atkinson respects the new safety policy, but he says officers are trained to be distracted.
"You're constantly vigilant of what's going on around you. You have a mobile data computer that you're responsible for. You have a police radio that you're expected to listen to nonstop," said Cpl. Atkinson.
Chief Davis says he's looking into technology that disables an officer's computer when a car is in motion. He wants the public to police his officers.
"If any citizen sees a police officer in Anne Arundel County on a cell phone, I'd certainly like to know about it," said Chief Davis.
Chief Davis says there will be disciplinary actions. Right now, he's not providing hands-free devices to help follow the new policy.
The Chief says he is the first in the state to ban handheld cell phones while behind the wheel.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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