SPOKANE, Wash. - Would you dare to pull over an on-duty sheriff's deputy and demand his ID? It happened earlier this month in Grant County with a citizen making a traffic stop on a deputy armed with a camera.
Gavin Seim identifies himself a constitutional activist and believes since it's the public that gives our police their authority that citizens have the right to confront police when we think officers are abusing that authority. In this case, he questioned Grant County Deputy Dustin Canfield about what he was doing sitting in an unmarked patrol car.
Seim thinks Washington state law prohibits police and sheriff's deputies from using unmarked patrol cars unless they are specifically pulling undercover duties. RCW 46.08.065 is the state law Seim is referring to, which requires that almost all government-owned vehicles be clearly marked.
However there are exceptions to the law which says, "this section shall not apply to vehicles of a sheriff's office, local police department or any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential purposes..."
Seim worries unmarked patrol cars can lead to people impersonating cops, but Deputy Dustin Canfield explained his car is new and still awaiting decals.
Sheriff Tom Jones addressed the incident in a message posted to Facebook Tuesday afternoon, saying that Seim "believed the brand-new Dodge Charger patrol car was illegal because the car had no markings identifying it as a law enforcement vehicle. The citizen then gave the deputy a "warning" for driving an unmarked car."
Jones then explained that Canfield dealt with Seim with "tact and diplomacy," adding that the two were acquainted with each other before the incident, the patrol car Canfield was driving was awaiting vinyl graphics to be installed.
"I am not going to put the public at risk by not deploying patrol cars while awaiting installation of decals. I'm sure our citizens who depend on us would agree with me," Jones wrote.
So wow can police and sheriff's deputies use unmarked patrol cars here in Spokane? Well not only do they feel the statute allows them an exception but they also say those plain wrapped cars are not really unmarked but rather emergency vehicles given that they are equipped with flashing lights in the grill and in some cases the visor.
However police say if you having any misgivings about getting pulled over by an unmarked car slow down, call 9-1-1 and have dispatchers verify who you are dealing with.
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