(KMOV) -- It might come as a surprise, but the same officers who enforce seat belt laws often times do not to wear them, and it's not hard to find evidence on the streets.
Police say they see the belts as a hindrance that slows their response time. Mike Guzy spent 21 years as a St. Louis officer, and says he refused to wear them.
"There are people who are gonna run from you. There are people we've seen in a couple of recent incidents who will attack an officer," he said. "In either case you need to be able to get out of your vehicle in a relatively short period of time."
The St. Louis Police Department announced on Wednesday that Officer David Haynes did not have his seat belt on when he crashed during a high-speed pursuit. Officer Haynes died in that crash on March 24.
It is the second fatal crash involving a St. Louis police officer where seat belts were not in use. Police Chief Daniel Isom said that it is a constant struggle to get officers to wear the life-saving devices that citizens are required by law to wear.
This debate has been going on for years, but the two recent deaths have drawn greater attention to the issue. Despite a stiff penalty, the chief can't seem to convince officers to wear safety belts. "It's an issue throughout law enforcement," said Chief Isom. "It's become a bone of contention between management and officers."
Officer Haynes wasn't the only recent death. Officer Julian Moore died in October responding to a scene. There's no proof a seat belt would have saved either officer, but a recent policy imposes a one-day suspension on any officer caught not wearing a seat belt. According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, more than 50 officers were suspended since January of last year for not wearing a seat belt.
"The suspension is basically to show the officer why we care about you," said Chief Isom. "We want you to wear your seat belt, because if you are in an accident, it has the potential to save your life."
Chief Isom says he will continue to try and convince the troops to wear the safety belts, but there are no plans for tougher sanctions at this point. The Police Officers Association also suggested that the type of cars being driven are more dangerous. They say they prefer a bigger SUV instead of the Chevrolet Impala's favored by the department.
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