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A Letter to Spokane Valley City Council

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Members of SpokaneValleyCity Council,

In recent weeks we have brought up the issue of the Sheriff’s use of unmarked cars for patrol purposes.  The Sheriff’s office has and continues to use these cars illegally for general patrol.  At the April 26th council meeting Alan stated that all of Sheriff’s Patrol Vehicles were to be marked according RCW 46.08.065.  Individuals who would read this law in support of the Sheriff would have us to believe that this law is ambiguous.  Bill Gothmann in the April 26th meeting got up and publicly stated that in his opinion that the Sheriff’s office is exempt from the requirements of 46.08.065.  If we were to take this statement and carry it to its logical conclusion then no Sheriff’s vehicles need to be marked.  We all know that this conclusion is preposterous. 

The sheriff’s office has publicly stated that plain marked cars (of which there is no legal term), as opposed to unmarked cars have a mohawk of antennas, a push-bumper, laptop, and cage two of which are completely inside the vehicle.  Its interesting that 46.08.065 makes no mention of push bumpers, laptops, antennas, or cages.  The sheriff has also publicly stated that while this was a tragedy, we can see from his responses in the last week he has done nothing to avert another tragedy and appears to have no intention of doing so since he declared he will not paint his unmarked units.  Doug Clark stated in his opinion piece in the Spokesman on May 12th that to think it might happen again is science fiction”.  The Spokesman in their May 10th article Washington Bill Addresses Unmarked Patrol Cars stated ‘The sheriff’s office, which contracts to provide police services to Spokane Valley, has 24 marked cars and 10 unmarked cars that patrol the city. Another 13 unmarked cars are used by patrol and supervisors in the unincorporated portions of Spokane County.’  On January 28th myself and Alan Creach met with the Sheriff and he stated that the Valley has approximately 4 unmarked units (refer to Number of Patrol Units vs Unmarked Units January 28th.mp3 attached in this email).  My point being that if we take Clark’s opinion that for this to happen again would be science fiction, then the sheriff in less then 4 months has more than doubled his chances of it happening again since the Sheriff is now up to 10 unmarked units in the valley from 4 back in January.

The definition of 46.08.065 is clearly laid out in case law.  State v. Ritts, March 23rd 1999.  http://wa.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.19990323_42473.wa.htm/qx 

It is a felony to ignore an order or command to stop by a law enforcement officer in a marked police car. The trial court dismissed a charge of attempted felony eluding against Mark Ritts because the police car he attempted to elude was not “marked” with identifying lettering on the doors, although it was equipped with flashing lights and siren. We affirm. 

Further 46.08.065 is clearly defined by the court.

All public vehicles including police cars must be marked on the sides with identifying lettering or logo. RCW 46.08.065. Undercover sheriff’s office and police vehicles are exempt from this requirement. RCW 46.08.065(1). 

The sheriff has gone on record and has said his unmarked patrol cars are exempt.  You as a council now have the facts.  The Sheriff is using unmarked patrol cars in an illegal manner.  Quite frankly this is common sense but politics cloud the issue.  Multiple things went wrong the night of August 25th, the unmarked car being one of them.  Ozzie’s use of unmarked patrol cars in the valley is a dangerous policy for both citizens and deputies.  Our local legislators see this but they cannot enforce the law.  You are in a rare position to help change policy since the Sheriff is under contract.  Do the right thing, tell the Sheriff to follow the law and avoid future liability in the Valley.

Ernie Creach


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May 17, 2011 at 12:46 am

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Welcome To Spokane Police Reforms

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This is the new blog site for Spokane Police Reforms.  It will be updated with information, updates, and pages about our projects soon.

Written by spokanepolicereforms

May 4, 2011 at 1:06 am

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