The in basket: Henry and Dianne Altenburg teamed up to make the following comment by e-mail.
“How is it that the law enforcement agencies can auction off all their surplus or used vehicles,” they asked jointly, “without possibly changing the colors, taking off the push bar on the front, removing the special side mirrors and spot lights?
“It is amazing how many of these
past patrol cars are on the road,” they said. “They can fool anyone that sees them in a rear-view
mirror. Talk about scary! If someone with one of these vehicles decides to “Play Cop ……….”
The out basket: Someone else must have been concerned about this, as Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol here and Lt. John Gese of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office tell me the state Legislature just this year passed a law requiring the removal of all police equipment before retired cop cars are sold.
It won’t mean a big change for those agencies or Bremerton police, the three places I checked. Their spokespersons all say removal of that equipment has been standard procedure with them for years.
Removed are push bars, radios and wiring, consoles, prisoner cages, decals, emergency lights and wiring, spotlights and special consoles. The police insignia are decals that are removed with a heat gun.
The spotlight has been the exception with the sheriff’s office, but John said its removal appears to be included in the new law.
The cars aren’t repainted, but the growing number of black and white prowl cars in the local departments may need to be.
Still, John said, he, too, sees former police cars with the kind of equipment those departments remove before sale.
“I’m not sure if other agencies do this or not,” he said. “I suspect that some do and some do not.
“Interestingly though,” he said, ” it is not illegal in and of itself to have spotlights, push-bars, antennas, prisoner transport screens or other police style equipment on a personal vehicle. The only exception would appear to be any wording indicating it is a police car or red and blue lights.
“A private party could purchase the items through other means and have them installed in the vehicle. I suspect in addition to a lot of vendors that sell these types of things, people could also acquire them through something like eBay or craigslist, as well.
“What would make it illegal,” John said, ” would be if they used them in such a way as to imply they are police officers, such as trying to stop people in their vehicles.”
I recall a murder on Mullenix Road in South Kitsap about 40 years ago when a fellow who was using a red light to pull over women happened to choose someone who knew him. He killed her to avoid being identified, but was caught and sent to prison.
A happier memory was the spotlight on the only retired cop car I ever owned, a Chevrolet back in the ’60s. It was the coolest accessory I’ve ever had, though I’ve never bothered to have one installed on any subsequent car. The new law will make them harder to come by now, it appears.