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Sheriff issues statement on Christmas Eve traffic stop
— Press release from Sheriff Rob Nou:
There is considerable concern in the community about a traffic stop that occurred on Christmas Eve.
A letter to the editor posted in the online papers on Saturday detailing the observations by a witness to the event has generated considerable interest, which in turn has created controversy over the event. Issues were raised regarding the incident and conduct of the deputies involved.
The stop was made for two violations of state law, having people riding on a trailer (RCW 46.61.625) and inoperative tail/brake/signal lights (RCW 46.37.040 and 46.37.070).
The vehicle was being operated on public streets in Friday Harbor, in darkness, in the congestion of downtown on Christmas Eve (with two days of disrupted ferry schedules.) Several people were observed on the trailer on hay bales. There were small children aboard, including two reportedly sitting on the rear corners of the trailer.
This raises serious safety concerns. Bad things can happen very quickly and unexpectedly, with very serious consequences.
A midsummer hayride on Shaw two years ago resulted in several injuries—some serious, when the trailer carrying several people jack-knifed, spilling people onto the road. A former colleague of mine fell from the tailgate of a pickup that hit a bump at low speed, resulting in a serious head injury.
As your law enforcement officers, we have a fundamental duty to protect life and property. We also have a duty to enforce the law. This includes the enforcement of traffic laws.
This was a traffic stop that needed to happen—not to dampen the Christmas spirit, but to try to prevent a Christmas tragedy. Unfortunately, the stop turned into a confrontation.
The deputy called for back-up, and they were able to de-escalate the situation. No one was hurt, and no enforcement action was taken on the infractions.
A deputy followed the vehicle home making sure everyone got back safely. The contact lasted under 15 minutes, start to finish.
The men and women who work at the Sheriff’s Office work long hours to protect this community. It is our job to address behaviors, and encourage the voluntary compliance with the laws of our state.
Throughout the holidays, members of the Sheriff’s office are working, all shifts. It is time away from our homes and our families. We and our families are a part of this community and we all want to maintain the safety and quality of life that we enjoy here.
I am reviewing the incident, and the conduct of all involved. If you witnessed this stop, I would appreciate hearing from you.
— Non-emergency telephone number of the Sheriff's Department, 378-4151.