State Cops, Too, Will Follow Cell Phone Law

Talking on a cell phone while driving will soon cost you $124. A new law bumps up the existing cell phone ban from secondary offense to primary — meaning that an officer does not need any other reason to write you up for carrying on a conversation while heading down the highway.

There were exceptions to the law, however, one of which is if the person holding the phone is badged and driving a car with lights and sirens.

The Washington State Patrol, however, is rewriting its own handbook in that regard. Its chief, John Batiste, believes his troopers need to set an example.

“Using a hands-free device is a good idea for everyone, including troopers,” Batiste said in a press release. “Every driver has an obligation to be at their best while behind the wheel.”

Batiste added that he supports cell phone use by employees because the state patrol’s radio
system can be monitored, and phones can provide a way to communicate privately.

The state isn’t the only one to push for hands free devices. The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office has installed a hands free system called Parrot into nearly all of its patrol cars in the last six months, spokesman Scott Wilson said.

It may be implemented as a policy at the sheriff’s office as well. But as Wilson points out, the system, which broadcasts the call over the car’s stereo, is “crystal clear,” and convenient.

“I don’t know why anybody would not use it,” he said.

Not all of the county’s law enforcement agencies are changing policy. But the higher ups are asking for their officers to use good judgment.

“We have not set any such similar policy requiring them to use hands free devices, but we have suggested that they use good judgment and talk on the phone without hands free devices only when its safe to do so,” Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend wrote to me in an email. “Most of our officers use their own personally owned cell phones and have the hands free blue tooth type devices already and use them while on duty just like they would on their off duty time.”

Shawn Delaney, Poulsbo Police Department’s deputy chief, said they too don’t have a policy. But he said they’re cognizant that the public might not realize officers are exempt from the law, and want to set an example in not using the phone unless it’s necessary in the commission of their duties.

Tom Wolfe, Bremerton Police’s captain of patrol, said the department also encourages officers to pull over for calls that aren’t emergent in nature.

That said, there are circumstances — in progress calls and the like — where the officer has no choice but to talk on a cell phone while driving. The situation is so imminent that even going hands free is too time consuming, he said.

“The need to convey information in some situations immediately outweighs attempting to hook a phone up to any device,” he said.

4 thoughts on “State Cops, Too, Will Follow Cell Phone Law

  1. Paul,

    No, we actually do not pay for their personal cell phones. But we do have some department owned cell phones that they may use. Its just more convenient for the officers to use their own.

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