Spike strips dangerous but necessary, police say


What happened to officer Diego Moreno early Sunday morning is rare. He was killed while deploying a spike strip during a police pursuit in Kent.

Law enforcement training officers say using spike strips is a necessary but dangerous operation. On average, two officers are killed each year, according to the FBI.

"This spiking vehicles is pretty dangerous stuff," said WSP training officer Travis Joyce. He said the razors are packaged in plastic tubes inside sleeves. Three of them are tied in a line at the end of an 80-foot string.

They are tossed to the far side and when the car they're chasing arrives it's pulled into that lane. The tires get punctured by the spikes and then the strip is pulled all the way off so the pursuing officer's tires don't get flattened.

"Before we deploy these spike strips we need to make sure we're in a safe spot," said Joyce. "So 'cover' over 'concealment.'" That means finding a safe spot first rather than worrying about hiding.

The patrol car is not going to provide enough protection he said. "So we need to find a wall or maybe a jersey barrier or a large group of trees to really give ourselves that cover to get out of the way so that we can deploy the spike strips safely."

Police say it works effectively to bring cars to a stop like in Everett last February. The officer used a stopped semi to shield him. The tires were slowly flattened and the car swerved down an off ramp out of control and slammed into a guard rail.

But in a chase in the Denver area four years ago, the officer throwing out the spike strips was hit by a van pursued by police. Bellamann Hee was hurt but survived.

However in Phoenix in 2009, Trooper Chris Marano was killed throwing out spike strips. Just like Moreno, he was hit by a fellow trooper.

The incident in Kent has affected everyone at the training academy where troopers wore black bands over their badges. But they press on. "You can't let stuff like that keep you from doing the job," said.

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