Tag Archives: unmarked

Traffic patrols in unmarked cars are legal, say local officers

The in basket: Michael Denton writes, “Recently a new video has appeared on YouTube showing a citizen pulling over a sheriff’s deputy in Spokane for performing traffic patrol in an unmarked sheriffs vehicle.  The citizen in the video goes on to cite Washington RCW 46.08.065 and that the sheriffs deputy was in violation of said RCW.  Further research on this particular instance indicated that the patrol vehicle in question was new and awaiting the installation of the vinyl decals, a poor excuse in my opinion.
“Driving around Kitsap County, a motorist can usually spot at least one unmarked patrol car, whether it be WSP or Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office performing routine traffic patrol stops,” he said. “I have witnessed a few years back an unmarked black Subaru WRX sedan that was pulling over people on Newberry Hill Road for speeding up the hill.

“Now at the time I thought that was very sneaky, and it seemed like a good tactic using a vehicle that looked like nothing to do with law enforcement, until I read the RCW, which the way I comprehend makes these unmarked patrol vehicles illegal unless they are undercover or confidential investigators.

“How can these sheriffs officers and state patrol officers be getting away with pulling over motorists for regular traffic violations and not be in violation of the RCW?” he asked.

The out basket: Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office says the department “respectfully disagrees” with Michael’s reading of the law

“The wording in RCW 46.08.065 (second sentence) reads:   ‘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 investigative purposes,'”Scott said

“This issue comes up from time-to-time, (raised)  by those who believe that they have read and interpreted RCW 46.08.065 correctly.  We are not in violation of the RCW, as alleged by the author of the e-mail.  In fact, the wording specifically exempts sheriff’s offices and local police departments and, furthermore, exempts certain vehicles used by law enforcement in specific roles.

“There has been ample review of this RCW in the office of the Washington State Attorney General as well as our own county prosecutor’s office.

“The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office has reviewed our policy as it applies to this specific RCW.  We will continue to equip / mark Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office vehicles as determined by the role that a particular vehicle will be assigned when it is placed into service, or as its assignment may change.”

Trooper Russ Winger of the state patrol here says his department agrees.

“Unmarked patrol vehicles have long been in use by the WSP for various traffic enforcement duties. The vehicles are equipped with emergency lights and equipment. There is nothing illegal about the use of these vehicles for traffic and other law enforcement duties.

“The patrol has several makes and models of unmarked patrol vehicles in use throughout the state. They are very effective in traffic enforcement and that is why we use them.”