May 12, 2011 in City

Clark: Unmarked police car bill solves no one’s problems

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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I’ve long held the belief that if Olympia’s electricity came from brainpower the Statehouse would be in a perpetual gloom.

Even so, I’m confident there’s still enough wisdom at the Capitol to snuff the knee-jerk legislation being proposed by two Spokane Valley lawmakers, Matt Shea and Larry Crouse.

With last summer’s shooting death of pastor Wayne Scott Creach in mind, the two Republican representatives have rubbed their IQs together and come up with a law to keep cops from parking their unmarked vehicles on private property for routine matters.

This is dumbness even by government standards.

Now I’m sorry as hell for what happened after the Spokane Valley pastor grabbed his handgun and walked out into the dark August night to investigate a strange vehicle parked on his property.

When it was over, Creach lay dead from gunshot wounds.

The shooter was Brian Hirzel, a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy. Hirzel had parked his unmarked prowl car at Creach’s Plant Farm to keep an eye on the neighborhood and do some paperwork.

Supposedly.

The whole episode is sad and regrettable. And I still can’t say we’ve heard the whole truth about what really happened on Aug. 25.

But here’s the thing.

This Shea/Crouse effort to hamstring the police “so something like this doesn’t happen again” is ludicrous.

Call me a dreamer, but I believe laws should be made to correct real and legitimate societal problems.

What happened to Pastor Creach doesn’t remotely fit that criteria.

I’m a lifer here, Spokane born and raised.

Maybe my memory is going along with my hair, but I can’t recall anything like this ever happening before.

To think it might happen again is science fiction.

On the other hand, I can see a whole lot of reasons why citizens would want the police parking and prowling on and around their property at night in marked and unmarked cars.

Too often we gripe about the cops not doing enough.

Shea and Crouse are pandering and posturing. You can’t really fault them for that, of course.

They are, after all, politicians.

But as Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told me Wednesday, politics invariably makes for “bad policy.”

I’ll be the first to say that a stink still hangs over the shooting.

Yes, I know that Hirzel has been cleared of wrongdoing following an investigation. And yes, I realize he won’t face charges.

But all of that hangs on whether you believe in Hirzel’s telling of the tale.

Did Creach really refuse to obey orders to get on the ground?

Did the pastor really reach for his gun?

Or did Creach’s sudden, unexpected presence take Hirzel by surprise?

Did the startled officer overreact and with fatal consequence?

Sadly, we’ll never find out. That’s what happens when other side of the story gets dead and buried.

But in our Wednesday news story, the sheriff rightfully questioned just what Shea and Crouse hope to fix with their asinine bill.

“I can’t tell you how many times members of the community or business people have said, ‘Any time you folks need to park in my parking lot or driveway, we want you up there taking care of issues.’

“Those people expect us to be in those parking lots protecting their businesses in the wee hours of the morning. That’s how we operate.”

Enough said.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman- Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.

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