Some police agencies change policies to protect officers



Posted on December 2, 2009 at 8:26 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 2 at 10:48 PM

SEATTLE- In an effort to protect their own, some police agencies are changing policies after five police officers have been murdered execution style in the past three months.

Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick ordered officers to stop filling out police reports in the field. It is common practice with many police agencies for officers to use in car laptops to complete police reports. Kirkpatrick says she wants the men and women on her force to feel safe.

"It is very clear they feel they are targets, and I want them to have the mindset, right now, for a time period. It's not going to be forever," said Kirkpatrick.

Eastside officers are also taking the very same precautions. Shortly after the murder of four Lakewood police officers, the chief of the Bellevue Police Department told officers to stop filling out police reports in the field. The department is going a step further. Bellevue Corporal Marcia Harnden says officers are being told not to get out of their cars without first radioing in their location.

Patrolling the streets has changed dramatically since Seattle Police Guild President Rich O'Neill first started on the police force. Back then, O'Neill used a clipboard and pen to write reports. Now, officers use computers.

He says technology has made officers lives easier and safer. But he worries about a new $6 million Seattle police computer record system nicknamed "Spider." In May, KING 5 Investigator Linda Byron first reported frustration with the computer system. O'Neill says the computer program forces officers to click between multiple windows. O'Neill says a report that once took just 30 minutes to complete now can take up to an hour and a half.

Many veteran detectives tell KING 5 they are waiting until they get back to the station to fill out reports. O'Neill agrees.

"Officers, for the most part, do not like to sit in their car and do an extensive report on a laptop, for instance. They just don't feel safe doing that."

Many major Western Washington police agencies contacted by KING 5 say they do not plan to change their policies, but do plan to continue to emphasize officer safety.

Commander Leslie Burns says the Mercer Island Police Department is among those agencies.

"We don't have a policy that says they have to do it at any particular place. Again, it is left up to the discretion of the officers, where they feel safe to do it and where it makes most sense for them," said Burns.