Rantz: Seattle Police policy would let DUI suspects flee even if in stolen car

Oct 9, 2022, 12:00 PM | Updated: Oct 10, 2022, 6:17 pm

seattle police policy...

Three Seattle Police Department vehicles (Jason Rantz/AM 770 KTTH)

(Jason Rantz/AM 770 KTTH)

A draft policy mandates Seattle police allow DUI suspects to flee, even when they’re in stolen cars. And if a DUI suspect in a vehicle refuses to comply, officers must leave the scene. Some officers have already been told to follow this new guidance, according to multiple sources.

Captain Kevin Grossman in the North precinct outlined a draft policy dated Sept. 29, obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. It has caused great confusion and its effects are reverberating across the department.

In an Oct. 1 email, Grossman sent out the draft to his officers, according to a source. It’s unclear why the captain released the draft or why he wrote it in the first place. While the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has not adopted this as an official policy, one source explained officers were verbally instructed to follow it in at least one precinct. And it’s spreading unabated. 

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‘Phantom policy’ spreads


Some commanders told their officers to follow this as policy, according to two sources. The Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) explained to the Jason Rantz Show that at least one officer was even accused of violating the “phantom policy” to the independent oversight agency, the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). SPOG says the misconception about the policy has yet to be corrected by the department, as of Friday, October 7.

The policy, as written, is sure to be controversial and comes as the SPD aims to mitigate the risks associated with vehicular pursuits. While state law prohibits pursuits, a policy that the SPD adopted before its passage, DUI suspects are treated differently. Under the law, police may pursue suspects in vehicles if there’s reasonable suspicion of DUI because of the threat they pose on the roads.

To prevent a pursuit in the first place, officers have used a pinning maneuver where a patrol vehicle inches toward the suspect’s vehicle, making it difficult for them to drive away. Officers have had run-ins with addicts clearly high on fentanyl, sitting in running vehicles, sometimes with their foot on the brake. This poses an obvious public safety threat.

The draft policy

The pinning strategy is not always successful. If the driver wakes up and drives off, it could damage patrol vehicles or officers. But at that point, will SPD officers pursue it? Not under the draft policy.

Under the draft policy, officers are given three directives when “a driver is or appears to be passed out behind the wheel of a vehicle (whether stolen or not).” They’re told: “Treat the situation as a high-risk vehicle stop. Allow sufficient room (at least one car’s length) between the suspect vehicle and patrol vehicle to permit a path of egress for the suspect vehicle. And ensure there are sufficient officers on scene.”

If the driver flees, officers are instructed to “allow it to leave, broadcast last direction of travel, and complete an incident report.”

In cases where the driver either doesn’t respond because they’re passed out or are refusing to comply and “the only crime(s) at issue are DUI and/or Possession of a Stolen Vehicle,” the officer must, “attempt to hail the driver using voice or PA for a reasonable amount of time, and then leave the scene, and complete an incident report.”

The draft explains that the policy impetus is wanting all officers to be trained in Vehicle-Related Force Tactics. But officers say they’ve been effectively using pinning for years. 

Police reaction

Officers are upset with the draft policy, though some note that they’ve been handcuffed from doing their jobs so much already that this doesn’t phase them the way it normally would. Many speaking with the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH believe the policy results from Democrat police reform laws.

“My personal opinion on the matter is that if the state doesn’t want us to pursue people, then I am not going to risk civil or criminal liability pushing the boundaries of the law. That opinion is held by many when it comes to pursuits, traffic stops, and some Terry stops,” an officer told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

SPD is considering where they stand on the policy of pursuits in relationship to DUIs. It’s unclear if they are considering the policy outlined by Captain Grossman or if his draft is based on what the Command Staff at SPD is considering.

Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office and OPA ignored multiple requests for comment. 

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Seattle Police policy would let DUI suspects flee even if in stolen car