Northwest NEWS

November 30, 1998

Editorial

Advice from sheriff's department didn't work

I'd like to warn readers about something published in the Nov. 9 issue of the Woodinville Weekly. On page two, in the article about an elderly man being bilked out of $5,000, the concluding sentence says: "The King County Sheriff's Office says that if an unmarked car tries to [pull you over] and the driver isn't sure it's really a police car, drive slowly to the next well-lighted area where other people are around, such as a supermarket, convenience store, or gas station."

   I'd like to share my story. I'm a woman who was recently pulled over by a car I could not see and so didn't know whether it was marked or not.

   A couple of weeks ago, shortly after midnight, I was driving home alone. Heading east over Novelty Hill, I looked in my mirror and saw red lights flashing behind me. I looked at my speedometer and saw that I was over the speed limit, though I was still going much slower than most drivers do on that straightaway.

   Since it was late and dark, I thought I should be cautious about just pulling over--anyone can buy a lightbar--so I slowed way down and put on my right turn blinker, and continued about 1/4 mile to the road just before the downhill stretch.

   I turned into the subdivision there, and though there were no street lights, I stopped my car across someone's driveway, thinking that they might be able to see me from the house if I had any problems.

   The car behind me turned on a bright white light so that I could not see the person approaching my car. I opened the window a bit and said, "I cannot see you," to which a man replied, shouting, "Get your hands where I can see them!" When he yelled it again, I held my hands out the window so he could see them.

   Well, it was a county police officer, and he asked why I hadn't stopped right away. I said, "It's dark and I couldn't tell if you were really a policeman." He said, and this is a quote: "That's B.S.!" He went on to claim that anyone flashing colored lights would be a police officer, and that I could be charged with felony flight for not pulling over. He also sarcastically told me that if I wanted to get pulled over in a well-lighted place, I was living in the wrong area. He also said I could call 911 on my cell phone if I wanted to confirm that the car was an officer, though with all the shouting at me to get my hands up, I wonder what would have happened if I had tried to open my glovebox and pull out my cellphone?

   Later, I did a quick Internet search on "lightbar" and "sale" and received back thousands of hits. The very first one was an offer for a red-lensed, rotating lightbar, just like the one that pulled me over, which was sold over the Internet for only $75.

   I went ahead and paid my ticket and decided not to raise a fuss about this policeman who obviously did not care about the safety of a young woman.

   However, when I saw the Woodinville Weekly article, I felt I should say something so other people would know that the King County PR person may tell you that you can "slow down and go to a safer place," but that the county officer may not care a whit about your attempts to ensure your safety.

Name withheld by request