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THE POLICE BEAT: Top cop responds to readers' questions

First of all, I would like to thank those individuals that took the time to send in their questions to the editor and giving us the opportunity to try to resolve those issues for both the writer and others in the community that have the same questions! So here we go:

Shirley M. writes: It seems to me that I see more people speeding through school zones on Whidbey than I have seen any place else I’ve lived. People apparently have different interpretations of “when children are present.” Some think it means when school is in session, some think it means only when they can actually see children, and some seem to think that they do not have to slow down unless a child is in the street in front of their cars. How are we to interpret “when children are present” signs?

Shirley, this has been a concern and point of confusion with me since arriving here as well. As a matter of fact, just today I had a retired California Highway Patrol Officer come in and ask the very same question, so you’re not alone! For clarification purposes, the Washington Administrative Code (WAC 468-95-060) defines exactly what “when children are present” means as to this issue. The Code indicates that the 20-mile per hour school speed limit is in force under the following conditions: “When school children are occupying or walking with the marked crosswalk; when school children are waiting at the curb or on the shoulder of the roadway and are about to cross the road by way of the marked crosswalk; or when school children are present or walking along the roadway, either on the adjacent sidewalk or, in the absence of sidewalks, on the shoulder with the posted school speed limit zone which extends 300 feet in either direction from the marked crosswalk.”

We have a high percentage of our community that are transferred or moved from other states, where a more common posting of school zones has specific times or flashing lights when school zones are in effect. We are currently researching options on how to make our school zones safer for our students.

Since the beginning of this school year, 17 citations have been written for speeding in the various school zones within the city. Drivers should also be aware that traffic fines are double for school zone violations!

Please, please, please, make sure that you watch out for all of our pedestrians, and remember, a driver is required to stop and yield to a pedestrian or bicyclist who is crossing the road at a marked or unmarked crosswalk when that person is within one lane of your half of the road.

Robert B. asks: I can remember a time when it was a requirement for any vehicle hauling an object that protruded beyond the body of the vehicle to have a “red flag” attached to the end of the protruding object. Is that still a requirement to have some type of “flag” attached to the end of an object that extends beyond the body of the vehicle? If so, what is the color of the flag, and how far beyond the body of the vehicle must the object extend before a “flag” is required?

Robert, the short answer is “yes.” The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Title 46.37.140, states that red flags, not less than twelve inches in diameter are required to be attached to the end of the load on objects that extend four or more feet beyond the body of the vehicle. Also, if the vehicle is being operated at times of darkness or reduced visibility, they are required to have two red lamps that are visible for at least 500 feet to the rear and two red reflectors on the sides to indicate the maximum length and width of the load, when reflected by car headlights.

Fred H. asks: A neighbor police officer is the best police officer. More OHPD employees joining the good taxpaying citizens of Oak Harbor would be a win-win situation for everyone. Since three-fourths of the OHPD employees live outside Oak Harbor, what incentives do you think could be put in place to reverse this trend?

Fred, you’ve brought up a very interesting point, so I’ll try to give you my best response from my perspective, both as a city employee and also as a police chief. I haven’t looked as to exactly the percentage of officers who live within the city limits; court cases have clearly ruled that city’s cannot restrict where employees live, only that they have to live within a “reasonable” distance. What is more important to me, as the police chief, is the level of community support and involvement from our employees. Having worked for municipalities for the past 28 years, I am extremely gratified that a good number of our employees are involved in many community activities outside of their job assignments, from being active in various churches in the community to civic groups. We have quite a few employees that serve on various community committees and boards, volunteering their time in service to the citizens of Oak Harbor. To me, that commitment speaks volumes about their desire to serve. There have been cases in much larger jurisdictions where officers have received low-interest loans to move into high-crime neighborhoods, in the hopes of reducing crime in those areas by the visible police presence. It is my understanding that such programs have not been all that successful and really wouldn’t be applicable to Oak Harbor.

Oak Harbor is a great community to live and work, whether you live inside the city limits or outside.

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