Meet a Police Chief Who Actually Says Reckless Driving Won’t Be Tolerated

Hinesburg, Vermont Police Chief Frank Koss speaking to a group of local schoolchildren. Photo: Twarogsclass
Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss. Photo: Twarogsclass

If only more police officials took dangerous driving as seriously as Frank Koss, chief of police in Hinesburg, Vermont. An outraged Koss took to the pages of his local paper this week after a 17-year-old driver killed a local cyclist, saying “this was not an accident.”

Joseph Marshall, a teenager who already had a record of reckless driving, was hurtling at 83 mph when he struck and killed bicyclist Richard Tom, 47, before crashing into a tree, killing himself.

Koss didn’t mince words:

If Joseph Marshall had not lost his life, he would have been charged with second degree murder. This was not going a little fast or even distracted driving, it was gross careless and negligent driving… Although bicyclists are always aware of the inherent danger from speeding or distracted drivers, this event crossed an unimaginable line.

Koss said he has been haunted throughout his career by driving deaths that were the result of senseless risk taking. He said his department has “zero tolerance” for that kind of behavior and felt guilty the police department hadn’t done more to prevent Marshall from driving.

If you drive in Hinesburg with no regard to others on the road, we will make sure that you are targeted until driving habits are either changed or you are taking a bus. Bicyclists and pedestrians are seriously vulnerable to mistakes by motorists and we will have zero tolerance to unsafe driving that puts lives at risk.

Contrast that with the police department in Bellevue, Washington, which this week pursued no charges or even a citation against a driver who plowed through a local apartment building and demolished a crib — the sleeping baby inside miraculously was unharmed.

  • Kevin Love

    Imagine that. Teenage children being immature and having poor judgement.

    Or perhaps the poor judgement is demonstrated by allowing children to drive two-ton lethal weapons. In civilized countries, car driving is restricted to adults, not children.

  • Alicia

    Of course, he qualifies it by suggesting he might overlook “going a little fast or distracted driving”… but small victories, I guess.

  • Thank you Chief Koss. Please continue to speak up. Cyclists and pedestrians need all the friends in law enforcement that we can get.

  • Second degree murder might be a stretch, but criminally negligent homicide would be a no-brainer, as we are dealing with something along the lines of gross negligence rather than an intent to kill. But Mr. Marshall definitely won the Darwin Award.

    The local paper published an outraged response by the teen’s family, taking the Chief to task for his bluntness. But that sort of thing has to be said by the police, as it seems to be the only way to counterattack the “boys will be boys” and “accidents will happen” fatalistic mindset. Circling the wagons around such behavior only ensures it will happen again.

    Thank you, Chief Koss.

  • neroden

    Thank goodness there are some police chiefs who understand what their job is. No surprise it’s in Vermont!

  • neroden

    There are teenagers who are quite able to learn to drive and pass tough driving exams, and then proceed to drive carefully and responsibly…

    …this wasn’t one of them. The fact that Marshall had been caught driving recklessly *before* (as described in the article) but still had a license is particularly problematic. There needs to be a “two strikes” policy for reckless driving. First, it should always be prosecuted (no police or prosecutorial ‘discretion’). Second, a second conviction for careless driving should cause permanent, irreversible license revocation.

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