Seattle church leaders and funeral directors were caught off guard when Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske abruptly withdrew his permission for motorcycle escorts during funeral processions, effectively ending an age-old tradition, says the Seattle Times. An outcry from churches has police officials reconsidering their stance. No funeral processions are being held within city limits right now as a result of the chief’s decision.
Deputy Police Chief John Diaz said safety concerns motivated the chief’s decision. Two off-duty firefighters have been killed in recent years while working as funeral-procession escorts. Many people who work as funeral escorts are off-duty police or firefighters. “I know we come across looking like the bad guys, but we’re looking for a safer way to get a funeral procession from Point A to Point B without getting somebody hurt or killed,” Diaz said. “I think everybody is motivated to see things fixed, and I do believe we’re going to be able to come up with some workable protocol.”