WATCH: Citizen 'pulls over' Grant County Sheriff Deputy - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

WATCH: Citizen 'pulls over' Grant County Sheriff Deputy

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Video of a deputy with the Grant County Sheriff's Office being flagged down by citizen Gavin Seim (PHOTO/VIDEO: YouTube/Gavin Seim) Video of a deputy with the Grant County Sheriff's Office being flagged down by citizen Gavin Seim (PHOTO/VIDEO: YouTube/Gavin Seim)
GRANT COUNTY, Wash. - A video going viral this week is of a citizen in Grant County pulling over a Sheriff's Deputy for "illegally driving an unmarked car."

The citizen, Gavin Seim, describes himself as a "Liberty Speaker" according to his blog, posted the video on YouTube on October 14, 2014. Seim said said he saw the deputy driving an unmarked patrol car and flagged him over. Seim begins a conversation with the deputy and asks him for his identification. 

"This is my ID right here," the deputy responded, pointed to his police patch on his uniform. 

"That's not ID, sir. If I showed you a badge if you stopped me, would you take that as ID? C'mon. Let's be reasonable. Anybody can have a patch, sir," Seim responded. The deputy then showed Seim two forms of identification. 

The reason Seim flagged the deputy down, was one of public safety, according to Seim. 

"In Washington we have unmarked police vehicles impersonating citizens. If you think it's not a serious issue, try asking those that have been raped or lost loves ones because of unmarked cars," Seim wrote in his blog about the incident.

Seim asked the deputy if he'd been pulling people over in the unmarked vehicle, to which the deputy said "I am." Seim then notified the deputy he was in "open violation of Washington State RCWs."

"It's completely in violation of Washington State law and you are culpable in that, the way the law is written. So you've admitted that you are in violation of Washington State law and that you are stopping people in this vehicle. So what I'm going to encourage you to do, um, I'm not going, I'm not going to write you up today, what I am going to encourage you to do is take this car back (deputy begins to smile)... I know you're smiling but we the citizens do have a right to hold you guys accountable. If I'm in violation of the law, I could call the Sheriff out here and demand that you be written up for this," Seim said to the deputy.

The law the Seim is referring to (one that the deputy actually looks up and prints out in his car) can be viewed in full here, however it reads in part:

"It is unlawful for any public officer having charge of any vehicle owned or controlled by any county, city, town, or public body in this state other than the state of Washington and used in public business to operate the same upon the public highways of this state unless and until there shall be displayed upon such automobile or other motor vehicle in letters of contrasting color not less than one and one-quarter inches in height in a conspicuous place on the right and left sides thereof, the name of such county, city, town, or other public body, together with the name of the department or office upon the business of which the said vehicle is used."

The law however makes an exception for law enforcement vehicles, stating: 

"This section shall not apply to vehicles of a sheriff's office, local police department, or any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes."

Seim contends this wording and believes this would not hold up in court. He stated in his blog:

"MYTH: The spin machine asserts that since the word “OR” is in the sentence it must therefore separate the structure. They assert that exempt vehicles include “sheriff AND “local police” AND “local peace officers” undercover. While it can be a tad confusing when you think about it, it does not take an expert linguist to debunk this lie and it would never stand in court. The wording is actually clear."

KHQ reached out to the Grant County Sheriff's Office for their comment and Sheriff Tom Jones responded:

A message from Sheriff Tom Jones about Gavin Seim's recent video

By now, many of you may have seen a recent video posted online by a citizen who flagged down one of our deputies and video-recorded the interaction. The citizen believed the brand-new Dodge Charger patrol car was illegal because the car had no markings identifying it as a law enforcement vehicle. The citizen then gave the deputy a "warning" for driving an unmarked car.

If you haven't seen the video, you can see it here: http://callmegav.com/2014/10/citizen-pulls-over-unmarked-police-gives-warning/

Now, here are some facts.

1. Deputy Dustin Canfield dealt with Gavin Seim with tact and diplomacy as demonstrated in the video. It should be noted that Deputy Canfield and Gavin Seim are acquainted, so this was not an interaction between people unfamiliar with each other.

2. The patrol car Deputy Canfield was driving was awaiting installation of vinyl graphics (ordered prior to the video being recorded, but not yet received). To enhance our local economy, we choose to buy graphics from a local sign vendor, which is a small company. We get our vehicles marked as quickly as the graphics company's workload allows.

3. No one (in this case, the deputy driving the car) would receive a citation from a law enforcement officer or risk going to jail for violating that law. For those who read that law, you will see it is not a criminal or civil offense, but one that would be handled internally by an agency head.

4. I am not going to put the public at risk by not deploying patrol cars while awaiting installation of decals. I'm sure our citizens who depend on us would agree with me.

5. We embrace the value of having our vehicles marked. Marked vehicles are a visible deterrent to crime, and a visible, reassuring presence for our citizens.

Our focus at the Grant County Sheriff's Office - and what we strive to be known for - is fighting crime, arresting bad guys and working with the public to make safer communities. With limited resources in a large, rural area, we have to remain focused on our mission on helping our communities. We are working day and night with the help of our citizens stopping property crimes, drug crimes and violence. The members of the Grant County Sheriff's Office do a great job, and our citizens do a great job. We enjoy a mutual respect and we take great pride in our relationships with the communities we serve.

I greatly appreciate the outpouring of nationwide support expressing how well Deputy Canfield handled the situation, and I appreciate the support from our citizens who have also reached out to me.

Thank you,

Sheriff Tom Jones

"Unmarked vehicles are a ripe opportunity for confusion in a citizens reaction and for criminals to impersonate lawful authority to get people to stop. People have been raped and even murdered because of this, so the law is good sense." Seim stated on his site.

According to Seim's website, he spoke with Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones on Tuesday morning to have a "dialogue" about the incident, but said 15 minutes later he was told he would not be able to record that conversation, so he has declined the meeting until he can be allowed to record. 

You can view the uncut version of the interaction here.


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