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But Is It a Uniform?

Posted Thursday, May 30, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

When is a police uniform a “uniform” when running from the police officers? This somewhat odd question was the specific issue in the recent appeal of Michael Connors, who challenged his conviction of “Attempting to Elude a Police Officer.” In his appeal, Mr. Connors argued the prosecutor presented insufficient evidence that he had been pursued by a police officer “in uniform.”

Mr. Connors was driving a stolen car when he failed to stop when signaled by a police office, instead deciding to speed away. After being caught and arrested, Mr. Connors argued the statute required a pursuing officer to be “in uniform” and the officer was wearing “normal clothes.”

At trial, the arresting officer testified he was dressed as follows:

“A black external vest carrier, so it actually goes over normal clothes, has all my normal duty gear, I just carry it on a vest in front of me instead of on a belt. It has a Spokane Police badge on the front; it’s a patch. And then it has clear block reflective letters across the back that say police. Then I wear a drop-down style holster and it has a shiny silver Spokane Police badge on the front of my leg.”

After conviction, the appellate court found the officer’s clothing at the time met the ordinary definition of a “uniform.” For example, the vest worn by the officer was specific to the Spokane Police Department. It served to notify the public that the officer was an official member of the police department. The fact that the officer wore “normal clothes” under his police vest does not mean he was not wearing a uniform.

Therefore, as long as a distinctive garment that clearly identifies police as law enforcement, the statutory requirement of a “uniform” is met and conviction was affirmed.

State v. Connors, Division 3, No. 35718-0-III

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