Alameda City Attorney Janet Kern provided Alameda Patch with the following statement today, May 16. (You may read Tammy Sorenson's letter here.)
This past week a letter from Mrs. Tammy Sorensen, the mother of a child killed in an automobile/bicycle collision, was published by a number of Alameda media outlets. Mrs. Sorensen expressed a number of complaints about how she felt the Alameda Police Department handled the situation.
Let me say on behalf ofthe City that the passing of Brandon Sorensen was tragic and our hearts go out to the family. The loss of a child is truly terrible for a family and for a community.
The Sorensen family has retained legal counsel and filed claims against the City. As a result, the City is restricted in what information it may provide publicly. However, as Mrs. Sorensen noted, the Sorensen family and their attorney have been provided full copies ofthe police reports. The Alameda Police Department has done its best to handle this matter sensitively and professionally. Unfortunately, nothing anyone does can change the outcome of the family's loss.
I will, however, address some key questions which have been raised.
QUESTION 1: Is the accident report a public record?
ANSWER: State law makes vehicle accident reports confidential, except to a limited list of those involved, according to California Vehicle Code Section 20012. The Sorensen family, and their attorney, received a copy of the entire report.
QUESTION 2: Is the name of the driver who caused the accident a public record?
ANSWER: The name of the driver is in the accident report, which is confidential under state law as described in answer to the first question. Therefore, the City cannot provide the name to the public.
QUESTION 3: Why was the driver involved in the accident allowed to treat Brandon on the scene, yet Brandon's mother was “pulled away by the scruff of
ANSWER: Immediately after the accident occurred, more than one person tried to aid Brandon Sorensen. The Alameda police officers arrived on the scene within two minutes and immediately took control of the accident scene. That included making certain that medical help was being administered to the victim without obstruction and securing the scene to avoid additional injury to others. Officers are trained to handle grief-stricken loved ones in a sensitive manner. No one at the scene pulled Mrs. Sorensen away by the scruff of her neck. ln fact, a female officer was called to the scene to provide support for Mrs. Sorensen and offered to drive her to the hospital. Mr. Sorensen and another family member arrived and the family all went together to the hospital. The female officer was dispatched to the hospital for the dual role of investigating the accident and providing support to the family along with a Children's Hospital social worker. The female officer remained at the hospital until all the family members left.
QUESTION 4: Why was Brandon found 100 percent at fault when the driver allegedly admitted to turning around and talking to a passenger in the back seat, and then turning around to see a sweatshirt on her windshield, feeling something go bump, but kept driving?
ANSWER: Given that the attorney for the family has filed government claims, which are prerequisites to filing a lawsuit, the City cannot address specific factual assertions which are part of the collision report.
QUESTION 5: Why did the city keep all of Brandon's belongings for months but return the SUV to the driver so soon?
ANSWER: The Alameda Police Department followed its protocol for handling and preserving evidence. The SUV was processed and released upon completion of gathering evidence. The victim‘s belongings took Ionger to process. There seemed to be some delay in releasing certain items due to miscommunication between family members as to who was retrieving what items from the Alameda Police Department. However, all items have been released to the family.
QUESTION 6: Mrs. Sorenson is questioning APD’s integrity, and says her son did not get justice from APD and the City. What happened?
ANSWER: The attorney for the Sorensen family has made these and other unfounded allegations about the Alameda Police Department while pursuing a legal claim against the City. The Alameda Police Department's activities did not cause the tragic accident. The responding Officers used their best professional training and sensitivity (many of them are parents themselves) to insure medical aid was administered to the victim, the scene was secured, and a thorough investigation conducted.
Janet C. Kern