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Washington Judge Tosses Citation Issued in Unmarked Police Car Traffic StopTim King Salem-News.com
Common sense may ultimately prevail in the argument against the use of unmarked police cars for traffic enforcement in the state of Washington.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Opponents of unmarked police cars for traffic enforcement in Washington had a small victory Wednesday, when a traffic ticket originating from an unmarked unit was tossed out of court. In a previous article, Kevin Schmadeka explained that he was pulled over by one of these secret unmarked cars, and received a citation for not having his seat belt properly fastened.
He was in court Wednesday morning to attend a hearing for his seat belt ticket that was issued by a state trooper in an unmarked State Patrol car.
"I had submitted my brief to the Pierce District Court in advance. The judge began by asking me point blank if I had my seat belt on. I confessed guilt on that, and then told him my case was based upon the unmarked car issue. Then he said that he remembered reading my brief, and then a strange thing happened. He told me he was dismissing the ticket because of some sort of problem with the officer's report, (after I had confessed), then called up the next case and got me shuffled out of there as fast as possible."
Indeed, an interesting avoidance of a very important issue. It removes Kevin's ability to appeal the matter to a higher court, but also seems to indicate that the judicial system in this northern state may indeed be squeamish with this super controversial practice.
We have reported Washington's large numbers of unmarked traffic cruisers prowling the freeways, and we have also discussed things the way some of these officers tailgate and intimidate drivers. In one case the woman we interviewed was pulled over because she would not get out of the officer's way - that is exactly what she was told. The same woman had lost her small child one day before, after a long battle with an illness that began at birth.
Then there is the terrible story about the unmarked Washington police car and the officer who shot a minister to death even though the unmarked cop was technically trespassing without cause.
Kevin wrote about it in: Safety Demands Marked Squad Cars
It is also the simple fact that police get away with murder and it is extremely rare for police review boards to ever find fault with officers. They are generally all part of the same team in the larger sense, and the victim, over and over, is public safety.
Each time a driver is pulled over by a car with a red light that is not a marked police traffic unit with lights on its roof, the person is taking their life in their hands. Absolutely anyone can purchase a retired police car and easily equip it with red lights and pose as a police officer in order to commit a crime.
Then there are the problems that are tied to actual cops in unmarked cars used for traffic enforcement. I'm sure most readers remember the Black woman in Alabama who an unmarked traffic officer attempted to pull over on a lonely quiet stretch of country road.
The woman drove to the first public place she could locate, where people were present and lights were on, and the cop was so pissed off that he just kicked the woman's ass after she finally stopped, with his own cop cam capturing the action.
A recent example of how far police will go without clear identity, is the extremely dangerous stop of a military war veteran home from overseas; an Air National Guardsman named Anthony Graber.
It happened in Maryland and the ultimate police response was to ransack his home and arrest him for shooting video of the arrest and posting it on YouTube.
This is the environment created by the last presidential administration under Homeland Security. Still, every American has a right to take any photo of anything they want to and should. You are always protected by the First Amendment.
Kevin Schmadeka says he won and lost Wednesday. The losing happened when the judge successfully ducked the issue, halting his plan to appeal the matter to a higher court. "This will also not be much help in pursuing enforcement action against the State Patrol," he added.
On the other hand, Kevin has a victory to tout in promoting the use of his brief by the public in unmarked car cases.
"I might also challenge a sheriff's department to write me a ticket from an unmarked car, and if I get one, I'll make sure the brief specifically requests a ruling on that issue," he said.
Kevin included these photo to illustrate how difficult it is to know who is who, when police fail to identify themselves.
"Next time someone tries to cite Crown Victoria's as being readily identifiable as law enforcement, you can ask them if this car is readily identifiable as such. Then you can break the news that this car was owned by Christopher Monfort."
Chris Monfort, the driver of one of the two police Crown Victoria's, was actually the person who shot and killed a Seattle police officer named Timothy Brenton.
Kevin Schmadeka said that with the aid of these photos of Monfort's cruiser, "I can show them his car and ask how comfortable that makes them feel about such a car pulling onto their own property."
I'm very happy for Kevin's success and we will keep you updated on this real progress that can protect the public and raise the effectiveness of police, by putting them back in readily identifiable vehicles that among other things, show a community that its law enforcement is there, rather than hiding in some overpriced taxpayer supplied hot rod.
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