WSP’s Unmarked Vehicles Explained

Unmarked patrol vehicles are used for a variety of reasons, like catching speeding or aggressive drivers.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately as to whether or not they are legal under Washington State law.

The answer is, yes.

Legally speaking

RCW 46.08.065 states the Washington State Patrol (WSP) is allowed to use unmarked vehicles for general undercover or confidential investigative purposes and traffic control under the discretion of the Chief.

To read the full RCW, click here.

The Washington State Patrol’s Aggressive Driving Apprehension Team (ADAT)

The ADAT program is a proactive effort to locate and arrest aggressive drivers. They use unmarked/unconventional police vehicles equipped with mobile video cameras to detect and apprehend such drivers.

They’re looking for people making unsafe lane changes, following too closely, going 20+ mph over the speed limit, etc.

The Washington State Patrol’s Commercial Vehicle Division also uses unmarked patrol vehicles.

Why the WSP Uses Unmarked Vehicles

Many Troopers prefer driving the fully marked, white Patrol vehicles— mainly because of its visibility. Trooper John Lizama explains marked Patrol cars create a “halo effect” on the roadways. In other words, drivers put down their cell phones, stop speeding, and become perfect law-abiding citizens.

However, unmarked vehicles give Troopers the opportunity to see people’s driving habits and provide education on how to change their behavior.  ADAT Trooper Josh Sanborn says by being unmarked, Troopers are able to address the main concerns Washingtonians call 911 about. For example, most people won’t speed or camp out in the left lane in front of a marked vehicle…but they may do it in front of an unmarked vehicle. ADAT Troopers have the ability to address those problems.

To learn more about why we use unmarked vehicles, check out the video below:



Some Washington State residents are concerned the use of unmarked patrol vehicles could make it difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate Trooper and police impersonators.

Sergeant James Prouty says Troopers will always be in uniform and identify themselves when they approach the car. He adds the Patrol trains Troopers to pull people over in safe areas to minimize any risk.

“If you’re doubtful or unsure/uncomfortable of the situation, comply with the officer, pull over to the side of the road, and immediately call 911. Dispatchers will be able to tell you if it’s the real deal or not,” Sergeant Prouty says.



The “Swarm” is Officially Over

The “swarm” is officially over, ladies and gentlemen.

Thursday September 22, 2016 marked the last day of the Washington State Patrol’s (WSP) High Visibility Enforcement Effort, or HiVE for short.

Over the last two days, Motor Officers “swarmed” Northbound and Southbound I-5 between Portland Avenue East and South 56th Street for four hours at a time. The two-mile stretch of freeway has one of the highest collision rates in the area. Between September and October 2011-2015, the WSP responded to 522 collisions along that small section.

To view yesterday’s stats, click here. On Thursday, Troopers made 139 stops and issued 89 citations.

At the end of the two days, the stats came out to a total of 344 stops and 204 citations.

Citations included: Aggressive driving, texting while talking, cell phone use, seat belt violations, improper child restraints, open container for marijuana, and more.

The main point of this effort wasn’t to hand out tickets, but rather to provide education and change driver’s behaviors.

WSP Lieutenant Mark Tegard who works in the Field Operations Bureau says, “We’re very pleased with the outcome of this emphasis. The numbers reflect a positive effect on the motoring public and it was a great opportunity to talk with people about safe driving habits. The Washington State Patrol has received an huge show of support and plan on doing this type of education emphasis again in the near future.”

High Visibility Enforcement Effort Makes Big Impact on First Day

Did you drive along I-5 today? Say, sometime between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm? Notice a lot more Troopers out on the road? Nope, it wasn’t your imagination.hive-event_dsc2944

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) conducted a “High Visibility Enforcement Effort,” or HiVE for short. Basically, 10+ motorcycle officers “swarmed” Northbound and Southbound I-5 between Portland Avenue East and South 56th Street for four hours. By “swarm” we mean Troopers stopped every car they could that wasn’t obeying the law out on the small stretch of freeway. The two-mile stretch of freeway has one of the highest collision rates in the area.

Although citations were given, the main point of this type of emphasis was to provide driver safety education. Troopers were looking for everything from distracted driving to speeding. At the end of today’s, September 21, 2016, “swarm,” Troopers made 205 contacts but only wrote citations for 115.

Some citations included an open container for marijuana, texting while driving, aggressive driving, and improper child restraints.

Research shows that education and high visibility enforcement has a positive effect on driver’s behavior.

In 2015, Washington experienced a 23% increase in traffic fatalities from the previous year, the highest number since 2007. This rise in fatalities is troubling as the WSP and other agencies throughout the state are working towards the Target Zero goal of zero deaths and serious injuries along the state roadways by 2030.

WSP Assistant Chief Jeffery Sass who oversees the Field Operations Bureau says, “If we can save just one life, we have saved a family from the grief of losing a loved one. A simple change in driving behavior can reduce collisions and keep everyone who uses the road safe.”

The HiVE will continue along the same stretch of I-5 tomorrow, September 22, 2016, from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

21 Arrested in Thurston County Child Sex Abuse Sting

The Washington State Patrol’s (WSP) Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF), arrested 20 males and one female during a multi-day operation that targeted individuals who wanted to sexually exploit children.

“It’s vital we take these child predators off the streets and keep our children safe,” says Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste. “Through collaboration with our partners, we are making the internet safer for kids and are also able to protect the most vulnerable community members from abuse.”

Law enforcement officers acting in an undercover capacity, communicated on the internet  through various websites with individuals interested in the sexual exploitation of children. The operation generated hundreds of responses. The would-be perpetrators arrested agreed to travel to meet with undercover detectives posing as young girls and boys to engage in sexual activity with them.

“The significant investigative, surveillance and computer forensics support from our Homeland Security Investigations special agents proves that we leave no stone unturned when it comes to removing these predators from our communities,” said Steve Cagen, acting special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. “The staggering number of arrests achieved through interagency cooperation are a testament to our combined passion to prevent future harm to innocent children.”

As a result of the operation, detectives were able to rescue four children who were at risk of being abused.

The success of this operation was a collaborative effort involving the following agencies:

  • Washington State Patrol’s (WSP) Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF)
  • Thurston County Sheriff’s Office
  • Olympia Police Department
  • Tumwater Police Department
  • Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
  • Washington State Department of Corrections
  • Lacey Police Department
  • Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office
  • Shelton Police Department
  • United States Postal Inspection Service
  • S. Homeland Security Investigations
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations Child Exploitation Task Force
  • Washington State Office of the Attorney General
  • Thurston County Narcotic Task Force
  • United States Attorneys Office.
  • United States Army – Criminal Investigation Division

Remembering Trooper Ernest Eichhorn

Trooper Ernest Eichhorn died on September 16, 1958, at the age of 33. Trooper Eichhorn was in front of the Puyallup Fairgrounds directing traffic after the fair had closed for the day.

ernest-e-eichhornCharles Baker drove to the fairgrounds to pick up his wife from her job at the fair.  He had spent the afternoon drinking and was under the influence of alcohol as he drove toward the fair.  Baker was traveling about 30-35 miles per hour when he struck Trooper Eichhorn in the intersection. Trooper Eichhorn was transported to Tacoma General Hospital where he remained in a coma until he died from his injuries three days later. At the time of his death, Trooper Eichhorn had served twelve years with the Washington State Patrol as a Trooper.

Trooper Eichhorn’s wife, Marion, passed away in October 2009.  Their three daughters, Julie, Jann and Jill live in the Puget Sound area.  Trooper Eichhorn’s sister, Carolyn Baker, lives in Puyallup. Julie and her daughter, Emily, attended the 2016 dinner as our guests.

Please take a moment to remember Trooper Ernest Eichhorn and his family.

“It’s the Most Patriotic Thing I’ve Ever Done”

15 years ago, an America flag hoisted at Ground Zero just hours after the September 11 terror attacks went missing.

Soon after its disappearance, a nationwide search for the iconic piece of American history was on.

In 2014, at fire station in Everett, Washington, a man named “Brian” dropped off a plastic bag. Inside it- an American flag.

He told firefighters he was a Marine and was given the flag as a token of appreciation for his service by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). According to Brian, it was originally given to NOAA by a 9/11 widow. However, after watching a show on History Channel about the missing flag, Brian decided it was time for it to be returned to its rightful owners: The American people.

Firefighters then turned the flag over to police, and that’s where Washington State Patrol Forensic Scientist Bill Schneck comes in.

Mr. Schneck spent months running everything from chemical to photo analyses. In the end, his hard work resulted in a monumental success. His team was able to positively ID the missing “Ground Zero Flag” and immediately send it back to its home in New York. He said it was the “most patriotic thing I’ve ever done.”

Over the weekend, Mr. Schneck traveled to NYC for the unveiling of the flag at the 9/11 Museum. Upon arrival, he remembered an old photograph of the Millennium Hilton Hotel taken just weeks after the attacks by a WSP employee who was volunteering at the time. He snapped a photo— and the difference 15 years makes is extraordinary.

At the flag’s welcoming home ceremony, Mr. Schneck said he had never felt more proud to be an American. Adding he was honored and shocked to see the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab mentioned in the display case. “I was saddened to remember the extreme loss of life that took place 15 years ago; but in that darkness it was deeply moving to see how much the flag meant to New York and America in their healing process,” Mr. Schneck said. Photos taken by Mr. Schneck are below.



August & September Promotions

“A promotions ceremony isn’t a testament to one individual but to the success of an entire agency,” Captain Tom Foster said at the Washington State Patrol (WSP) promotions ceremony on September 13, 2016.

In the last two months the WSP promoted seven individuals for their dedication to both the agency and to the citizens of Washington State.

Congratulations to all!

Lieutenant Thomas J. Foster/80, Kennewick to Captain/13, Commercial Vehicle Division



Trooper Michael E. Harmon/345, Commercial Vehicle Division, to Sergeant/105, Olympia



CO 3 Vanessa C. Barnes/X140, Academy, to Assistant Communications Division Manager



Ms. Kimberly R. Stewart, Information Technology Division to ITS 5, Information Technology Division



CVEO 2 Ryan L. Hernandez/X746, Motor Carrier Safety Division to CVEO 3/X715, Commercial Vehicle Division



CO 2 Naomi D. Hannah/X181, Academy to CO 3/X139, Academy



Sergeant Lucas W. Brandon/128, Bellingham to Lieutenant/60, Burlington