I will stand by my report and its update – Creach OIS – Report and Analysis. The use of an unmarked police unit in this incident in my opinion was a fundamental contributing factor that set in motion a cascading series of events that led to this tragic outcome.
At this point because of the inconsistencies in Dep. Hirzel’s statements, stated actions and time line forensics I’m not willing to give his account of what happened that night the benefit of the doubt. Without Dep. Hirzel’s statements, the confrontation as described by Dep. Hirzel is in doubt. The forensic time line and the lack of neighbors hearing any shouted commands by Dep. Hirzel, raises the possibility that this was an instantaneous event with little or no exchange between Creach and Dep. Hirzel. Had Dep. Hirzel been in a marked unit this shooting may have never occurred or at least if indeed Creach was confrontational, there would be no misidentification issue to arise in a subsequent civil case.
Further my analysis of existing WA state law and two WA appellate court cases on point State vs. Ritts and State vs. Arguleta, the use of unmarked police units for routine patrol and traffic enforcement is unlawful. There is currently a disconnect between the marking requirement RCW 46.08.065 and the felony evading statute RCW 46.61.024. This disconnect needs to be resolved by the courts and or the legislature one way or another as a pubic policy issue.
In my opinion the minimal tactical advantage of using these unmarked units is outweighed by greater public safety issues as this enables police impostors that would prey on the public and also cases of mis ID in the rare events like the Creach case. Criminals are full aware of these less than stealthy vehicles used in this case and there really isn’t any advantage. I’m not in opposition to “stealth” patrol vehicles that have concealed emergency lights, use other makes and models than is the norm BUT ARE PLAINLY MARKED on the doors with the agencies insignia.
I’m not advocating the prohibition against all unmarked police units as RCW 46.08.065 clearly provides an exception for their use. HOWEVER their regular use for routine patrol and traffic enforcement is beyond in my opinion the legislative intent and scope of this section. In my report I recommended that the SCSO develop a common sense policy for their use to minimize the potential risk of their use as in the Creach case. True undercover and surveillance police units do have great value in law enforcement AND I’M not advocating that their use be restricted in any way.
Rep. Shea’s current bill introduced on behalf of the Creach family as written is potentially over broad and would perhaps interfere unduly with the police mission regarding parking on open commercial property without first securing permission. There however is a definite needs to clarify the meaning and legislative intent of these two sections that are in conflict.
I was not retained by the Creach family. They sought me out first through a mutual contact as I teach forensics and crime scene investigations, community oriented policing and controversial issues in law enforcement at a local college. My interest in this case was purely academic and my involvement was to aid in raising the professional bar of local law enforcement. I was not paid by the Creach family other than for costs of copying of information I sought re public disclosure requests of the various agencies.
From: Reagan, Dave [DReagan@spokanesheriff.org]
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 8:45 AM
Subject: News – Hirzel Shooting Briefing
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich will meet with area media representatives today to brief them on the final internal review of Deputy Brian Hirzel’s use of deadly force at The Plant Farm last year. The briefing will be held in the sheriff’s large conference room inside the Public Safety Building.
The sheriff will meet privately with the Creach family prior to his 2 p.m. briefing of local media.
The Spokane Police Department was the lead investigative agency in the Critical Incident Protocol investigation of the shooting. Detectives from the sheriff’s office and Washington State Patrol participated in that initial investigation. The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office received the investigation and after review concluded there was no actionable law violation committed by Hirzel. Afterward, the shooting was reviewed by the sheriff’s Deadly Force Review Board and the Citizens’ Advisory Board. Both boards concluded that Hirzel’s actions were within sheriff’s office policy and training.
This final review was conducted by the sheriff’s Office of Professional Standards.
Sgt. R. David Reagan
Spokane County Sheriff’s
Office of Public Information
Office of Professional Standards
509-496-6589 – Cellular
509-477-4209 – Pager 0348