LocalSYR

A plea from law enforcement: Move over for emergency responders, it’s the law

The crash that killed State Trooper David Cunniff is a dark reminder of the day a local deputy, Glenn Searles, was killed helping a driver on the side of the highway in DeWitt 10 years ago.
DeWitt (WSYR-TV) - The crash that killed State Trooper David Cunniff is a dark reminder of the day a local deputy, Glenn Searles, was killed helping a driver on the side of the highway in DeWitt 10 years ago.

"Dewitt officers were the first officers on the scene that tragic night, so they saw the reality of the danger of what can happen," recalled DeWitt Police Chief Eugene Conway.

Dewitt Police start each day with a clear message. On every screen saver, they'll find the number of officers who've died on duty across the country.

"An auto-related death is the leading cause of death each year for law enforcement," said Chief Conway.

Trooper Cunniff grew up in Duanesburg, NY, before taking an assignment in Fultonville. He was 35 years old and a father of two young children.

"It is a profound affect to all of our brothers and sisters in emergency services. Certainly our heart goes out to the Cunniff family and to his law enforcement family in the State Police. We know what this is like. This is a terrible tragedy,” said Chief Deputy John Balloni, with the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office.

This year Chief Deputy Balloni's colleagues at the sheriff's office held a ceremony marking the somber 10th anniversary of Searles' death.

The loss prompted action, inspiring a new state law in New York that requires drivers to move over for first-responders.

This year, the rules expanded to include tow truck operators and maintenance workers. Violators face a $275 fine and three points on their license.

For his part, Conway makes sure his crew is as visible as possible with flares, vests, and traffic cones. In addition to the bright yellow jackets that officers wear, their cars are covered with reflectors.

Yet, across the state New York State Troopers caught nearly 12,000 drivers violating the Move Over law last year and with Trooper Cunniff's loss, the number of on-duty deaths keeps rising.

"All of us in law enforcement know that that very easily could have been one of our own law enforcement officers," Conway said.

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