A ride-along with Washington State Patrol | Crime
I spent my Thursday evening of last week with Trooper Paul Wanzenried as we patrolled Lincoln County via Highway 2 and Spokane County through I-90. A quiet evening, but we wrote three speeding tickets and initiated one sobriety test of a driver on the interstate westbound near the Altamont exit.
During the four hour ride-along, we responded to nine incidents including five traffic stops, one courtesy ride and three disabled vehicles. One newsworthy quality about Thursday’s ride was Tpr. Wanzenried got to show off his brand new Crown Vic, one of the last off the production line and the last one issued by Washington State Patrol.
Below is a timeline of events as they happened. We were tweeting the incidents last night as well. To read the tweets as they happened, read our Storify for “Tweet-Cap: A ride-along with Washington State Patrol”. Includes photos, tweets and questions from those following along last week.
6:30 p.m. - Arrival to WSP’s district office just off of the interstate near Geiger. Another media outlet is on the scene to also talk to Wanzenried about his new car.
The vehicle, one of the last Crown Victoria Police Interceptors off the manufacturing line, doesn’t have a “name”, but the trooper cherishes this vehicle as a tool to protect him during his job and serve as a mobile office. He was issued the vehicle in June and says he did not expect the amount of media attention he’s receiving.
The trooper poses with his new car. It doesn’t have that new car smell anymore, but a new car smell air freshener hangs just behind the front passenger seat.
7:13 p.m. - And we’re off! We start our patrol toward Lincoln County and drive through Davenport and Reardan back and forth via Highway 2 and a satellite country station serenades the ride. There are only two troopers assigned to Lincoln County and Wanzenried has the night shift.
A little background on our trooper. He’s an National Guard airman who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s been with WSP for 8 years. Before that he was police officer for Eastern Washington University. Most ride-alongs he gets are from criminal justice students from the university. He’s also a Spokane Valley native.
7:14 p.m. - Just as we pull out of the WSP driveway, we spot a disabled vehicle pulled over to the side of Geiger Blvd. with its warning lights on just before Grove. Tpr. Wanzenried grabs his hat and approaches the vehicle where a female driver says AAA is on their way.
7:45 p.m. - We pull over our first vehicle in Lincoln County. The driver of a Dodge Nitro was going 70 mph along Highway 2 near the Sunset Highway intersection. The speed limit is 60 mph. Tpr. Wanzenried says he has a buffer of 10 mph, but that number is up to the trooper. One of his many routines, the first car of the shift always gets a verbal warning. He says it helps to educate drivers to reduce fatalities on the roadways.
Lincoln County is bigger than Spokane County, but the number of incidents Tpr. Wanzenried responds to is slim. During a 10 hour shift, he issues 4-5 tickets a night on average. The most notable event he responded to this year was January 1 when there were four fatalities.
He deals with a lot of drivers falling asleep while driving, a fair amount of DUIs and animals versus vehicle accidents.
Every now and then he has to deal with a call of somebody seeing a UFO in the area.
8:04 p.m. - We pull over our second vehicle of the evening. An older Honda Prelude was clocked at 70 mph near mile marker 258. Tpr. Wanzenried cited him with an infraction that tallies up to $113. Sometimes those tickets are more if you're caught going faster.
Traffic stops are recorded on WSP dash cams. If it’s a traffic stop like the one above, they’re only saved on servers for 120 days. If it’s a criminal violation, they’re saved for ten years.
8:10 p.m. - We issue our second speeding ticket just as the sun was setting. A Pontiac Solstice (with the top down) was caught going 74 mph.
8:29 p.m. - We were heading eastbound on Highway 2 when we spotted our next speeding vehicle. We had to turn around and catch up to the SUV clocking us up to 100 mph.
The driver stormed off immediately after they were handed the ticket. Wanzeried says they were not very happy about receiving it because the vehicles in front of him were speeding as well.
Wanzenried says, "A lot of people don't like to take responsibility for their actions."
9:08 p.m. - We spot a disabled vehicle along Highway 2 and pull up from behind. Tpr. Wanzenried approaches the car and the driver says they spilled something and they were cleaning it up.
9:24 p.m. - The evening is getting dark and as we leave Davenport we spot a man with a red flashlight walking along the highway with a young child. As we turn around up ahead to see if they need help, we get a call from Dispatch about the pair. Somebody else called it in too.
The man said he and the son were in the middle of moving and their vehicle broke down. We give them a courtesy ride to Reardan. Tpr. Wanzenried gives “Brandon”, the young boy, a sticker.
We head back to the vehicle to tag it. It’s now the driver’s responsibility to move the car in the next 24 hours or else it gets impounded.
Pedestrians and cyclists are not the biggest incident type in the county. With such a rural area, Tpr. Wanzenried says he deals mostly with vehicles. Some traffic going through Highway 2 is drivers looking to avoid the interstate and avoid detection especially when patrol aircraft fly over looking for speeders. When the aircraft are flying south, traffic diverts to the highway because they think nobody is patrolling out there.
9:26 p.m. - As activity dies down in Lincoln County, we head to Spokane County to patrol the Spokane Valley area. Around this time of night, the patrol focus shifts from traffic offenses to impairment.
10:43 p.m. - There was much patrolling during the last hour, but nothing to respond to, but as we were driving eastbound on the interstate near the Evergreen exit, we spot a vehicle pulled over on the other side of the freeway. We have to switch direction to get to it, pulling up behind, but when we did, the SUV simply left.
We watch the vehicle drive westbound swaying in their lane. It starts crossing the “skip line” and changing lanes frequently. The erratic driving finally brings them over the yellow line. Just before the Altamont exit, Tpr. Wanzenried pulls them over to perform a sobriety test on the driver.
After a number of tests and a breathalyzer, it’s determined the driver is not intoxicated. The driver is let go.
Tpr. Wanzenried says they can test for alcohol easily while on traffic stops, but chemical imbalances are difficult without blood tests.
11:30 p.m. - End ride-along.