A prohibition on police officers smoking or chewing tobacco in their patrol cars will be included as part of an ongoing overhaul of the police department's 500-page policy manual due out June 1, said Police Chief Robert Spinks.
"Based on our legal advice, we believe the city is in compliance with the current state statute on smoking.
"However, we also appreciate that there are other interpretations regarding assigned patrol cars and when and where they may or may not be used by or open to the public," he said.
Spinks told the city council at its April 13 meeting that he agreed with Councilor Susan Lorenzen's comments that police officers smoking in their patrol cars sets a bad example.
He is discussing the issue with the police department's union in order to avoid going to collective bargaining on the issue, Spinks told the council.
Spinks said Thursday the proposed policy "goes beyond legal requirements" to include chewing tobacco as well as cigarettes.
"A smoking or tobacco ban does not have to be negotiated, unless mandated by law, but it's always a good idea anyway to negotiate such a policy," Spinks said.
A complete overhaul of the department's general operating manual began two years ago as part of the police department's strategic plan, he said.
The process slowed down when he took over as interim city manager from May 2008 through early December 2008, then underwent major surgery, Spinks said.
The union has until the end of April to finish commenting on the draft version of the manual overhaul.
Then in May it will go to the police staff for training and become effective June 1, Spinks said.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the issue of police officers smoking in their patrol cars probably was being negotiated "at least in concept" long before any public complaints surfaced.
"The city has been working on a policy, too. These things are negotiated through
unions who are generally supportive. These are good issues to bargain because they are a win-win for all, since it also reduces health care costs," he said.
Spinks said, "I think we're taking the responsible path balancing the rights of employees under current Washington labor law with those of the Washington Clean Indoor Air Act so that everyone's best interest is served."
Reach Brian Gawley at email@example.com.
department's new policy language on tobacco use:
_ 1018.1 PURPOSE AND SCOPE - The Surgeon General has determined that second-hand smoke is hazardous to health. Tobacco products may also be offensive to employees and the public.
_ 1018.2 POLICY - Smoking and other use of tobacco products is not permitted inside department facilities or any department vehicle. It shall also be the responsibility of all employees to ensure that no person smokes or uses any tobacco product inside department facilities and vehicles.
No person shall smoke tobacco products within 25 feet of a main entrance, exit, or operable window of any building (RCW 70.160.175).
Employees in uniform are also prohibited from smoking or using tobacco products while in public view.
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