The Little Rock police today gave me their investigative file on the October wreck involving now-retired Assistant Police Chief Carlos Corbin.
The investigation of that wreck has been finished and the police will file no charges against Corbin, though investigators concluded the accident happened in a way different than Corbin originally reported. I was provided the file on the wreck under a Freedom of Information Act request I made earlier this week.
The investigation was extensive and included the work of accident reconstruction officers and examination of the car’s on-board crash data unit. Officers concluded that Corbin’s unmarked police car left the road and hit a pole and a tree on the drive in Interstate Park off the south end of Arch Street. They concluded the wreck was not the result of a hit-and-run driver several blocks north on M.L. King Drive, as Corbin had reported to police communications officers in the early morning hours of Sunday, Oct. 2.
Lt. Terry Hastings, the police information officer, said no charges would be filed because it was a one-vehicle accident that didn’t involve personal injury. Despite the findings contrary to what Corbin had said, “We don’t believe he knowingly made a false police report. He told us information he believed correct at the time of the accident.” Hastings declined to elaborate. Other police sources have indicated previously, however, that Corbin was taking a prescription drug, whose side effects can cause memory loss and hallucinations. I have been unable to reach Corbin.
Here’s a copy of key pages in the accident investigation.
Channel 4 broke news of this wreck in early December. Corbin was driving an unmarked city Impala about 2 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, when he said the car was struck by a hit-and-run vehicle. But doubts quickly arose and Chief Stuart Thomas indicated early on that he had some doubts about Corbin’s account.
Corbin retired Dec. 1, before completion of the internal investigation into the accident. That investigation — a personnel review distinct from the accident investigation — has been completed, but is still pending final action by Chief Thomas. I couldn’t reach him today, but Hastings,who provided the accident investigation report, said that file mirrors the accident report in most respects.
Hastings said it was customary to complete internal investigations of officers even when they retired during the process, though, as a practical matter, there’s no departmental recourse after retirement for wrongdoing. Under a quirk of law, this internal investigation isn’t likely to ever be open to the public. Here’s why: Police personnel files are open only to the extent that they constitute a record of a suspension or termination. You can neither suspend nor terminate someone who has retired.
The chief, in theory, could issue a finding that an on-duty action of a now-retired officer merited suspension at the time, but it would raise the hackles of the Fraternal Order of Police and break custom of long-standing that such files get closed when retirements are tendered. It’s unclear whether this incident prompted Corbin’s retirement; he’d been making plans for it for some time, Hastings said.
The chief could choose to announce — if he found it warranted in this case — that a violation of policy had been found, but no action was taken on account of retirement. Hastings said the file was on the chief’s desk, along with several other more pressing matters, and he couldn’t predict when Thomas would close the books on it.