For as long as I’ve been involved in the profession, Washington law enforcement agencies have been using unmarked police vehicles. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 46.08.065) provides authority for police agencies to use unmarked vehicles.
In the last few years, citizen groups have reviewed this statute and have come away with a different interpretation. They read the statute as creating a limitation on the use of unmarked police vehicles. Some citizens feel so strongly that this interpretation is right that they have started to perform traffic stops on police officers who are driving unmarked cars.
Frankly, the current language used in the statute is poorly written and is responsible for creating this situation. When attorneys can look at the same law and come away with two possible meanings, something is not right.
Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, agreed to take this issue to the 2015 legislative session. She introduced House Bill 1951 to end the confusion and arguing over what the statute means.
As Camas’ chief of police, I am responsible to provide police services to the community. While the workhorse of law enforcement is the fully marked patrol vehicle, there are other assignments and functions where unmarked police vehicles are needed. HB 1951 makes it clear that law enforcement in Washington state have the ability to use unmarked police vehicles. I fully support HB 1951 and believe it’s in the best interest of the Camas Police Department.