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Sequim Police Department poised for national stardom

The police officers of Sequim are superstars, but don’t expect the fame to go to their heads.

The department recently was selected to participate in the making of a training video that will be distributed to law enforcement agencies across the United States.

“The theme of it is ‘Get in the game of law enforcement,’ so the purpose of the video is to show how important traffic law enforcement is, to look beyond the stop — especially in this area, you may have international traffic. You may have a greater chance of getting drugs or things of that nature,” Randall Pullar explained. Pullar is the electronic media manager for the Washington State Patrol, and he’s the new video’s producer.

“Just like on ‘Cops,’ I’m going to ride with him (Sgt. Kenneth Almberg) and get out with him on his traffic stops and see if we can get into something good that shows, for example, here’s a traffic stop, but this person has a suspended license, or this is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or this person is a drug trafficker. This is a really unique area because you have a state route and an international border so close.”

Among those interviewed by Pullar were Sequim Police Chief Robert Spinks, Sgt. Don Reidel, Almberg and Officer Randy Kellas. Almberg and Kellas make up the department’s traffic safety division. The Sequim Police Department has the only fully-funded traffic safety division in Clallam County, and Sequim was selected to participate in the film due in large part to the efforts made by the division, including having major input into the state’s Target Zero program. Only two other agencies from Washington state — the Gig Harbor Police Department and the Island County Sheriff’s Department — were selected to participate in the film.

With Sequim growing in population, as well as being a major area for tourism, traffic is becoming more and more an issue. For instance, in one of his traffic studies Kellas counted 60,000 vehicles using Sequim Avenue and 117,000 using the West Washington-Ninth Avenue roundabout within a one-week period.

“We have large issues that concern us. Ninety percent of our traffic comes from outside the city limits. We have maybe 6,000 people within the city limits, but we have 30,000 people who surround the direct area. People come into Sequim to shop, drive through or do something. We’ve already had two reported accidents today,” said Almberg.

Prior to becoming a full division, traffic safety worked as a unit within the department’s regular patrol, but with traffic and therefore traffic hazards on the increase, Sequim decided to kick traffic safety up a notch.

“I don’t see it as more of an issue. It’s an issue for every department, but I think that Sequim is putting more focus on it,” said Kellas.

Pullar’s interviews with the officers were strikingly personal. The officers were asked to describe incidents where they saved a life, knew an officer who lost his life or were injured while performing traffic enforcement, or what drove them to work in traffic enforcement. For Kellas, it was responding to the scene of a near-fatal accident in 2002 that continues to drive him.

“Probably one of my biggest pet peeves is people running stop signs, and that’s because of this,” Kellas said, retrieving a news clipping of the accident. The article, from May 2002, shows a severe crash where a 10-year-old boy was injured and needed to be airlifted to the hospital. “His mom ran a stop sign and got hit by an SUV and the 10-year-old boy was sitting in that seat, and that was right near City Hall, so now I write a lot of citations for it. It’s one of my biggest write-ups. A lot of officers write for speed; I write for other safety issues. They’re asking what impacted your life, and that accident made my decision that we needed to spend more time dealing with in-town-type traffic safety issues like stop signs.”

The video will be unveiled during the National Safety Traffic Conference being held in San Diego in October then sent to every law enforcement agency in the United States for use. It also will be used as a television spot.

“Yeah, we’re going to be put on the map,” Almberg said.

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