Deputy-bike crash raises questions about siren and light policies



Posted on May 28, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 28 at 7:30 PM

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash.--  After a Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy struck a bicyclist on his way to a call Friday, KREM 2 On Your Side investigated similar agencies’ lights and siren policies.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office identified Dep. Joseph Bodman as the driver of the vehicle on Monday.

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Authorities said Bodman was driving through a green light Friday night, when he hit 15-year-old Ryan Holyk in the intersection of Sprague and Vista. Bodman was on his way to a domestic violence call, though he did not have his emergency lights on according to witnesses.Holyk was hospitalized with serious injuries.

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KREM 2 On Your Side looked into multiple agencies’ protocol for using emergency lights.  The policies varied between agencies, but all of them said their standards revolved around safety.

Witness Tim Viall said screeching tires first grabbed his attention on Friday.

“Sounded like the breaks were being applied or something and then a thud,” Viall said. “The car swerved into the middle lane and then it continued on into the intersection.”

Witnesses said it was not immediately clear that the sound came from a police cruiser because they did not see flashing lights.

“If you go really fast, you need to let people know you’re coming,” Viall said.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said they could not comment on the case being investigated, but did discuss their emergency light policies.

KREM 2 On Your Side asked Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich when deputies are required to use lights and sirens.

“We are authorized to use our lights and sirens when we are going to a priority one or two call-- basically if anyone is in immediate danger,” Knezovich said.

The Spokane Police Department policy regarding priority one and two calls was similar. The guidelines state in part, “Officers responding to these emergency calls may determine that it is appropriate to utilize  emergency equipment in order to facilitate a safe, efficient response.”

The Sheriff’s Office explained why deputies sometimes use lights, but not sirens.

“Lights have to remain on the entire time if we are running code to a call,” Knezovich said. “We are authorized to use intermittent use of our siren.”

The Sheriff said deputies are allowed to intermittently use the siren because they need to be able to hear radio traffic. 

The Washington State Patrol did not have a set policy for using sirens and emergency lights, but said they expect individual troopers to make the safest decision possible. All agencies agreed they try to use their best judgment regarding sirens and lights.