I couldn't count the number of times I've ridden in the front seat of a funeral coach (a.k.a. a "hearse") while motorcycle cops have zoomed past, holding back traffic so our funeral procession could pass safely by. Turns out funeral processions like this are currently not legal in the City of Seattle, at least temporarily.
Some time ago, Chief Gil Kerlikowske of the Seattle Police Department had a form cross his desk -- the recertification required for the local motorcycle escort service to do its work for funeral homes from throughout the city. Remembering the two deaths of motorcyclists (not SPD officers, actually) over the last two years, Kerlikowske opted not to sign. In fact, according to a Seattle Times reporter, Kerlikowske sent a letter to the escort companies saying he intended never to sign any recertification.
I called the SPD today and, with Chief Kerlikowske out, I spoke to Dep. Chief John Diaz. According to Diaz, the SPD has called a meeting with the motorcycle escort companies and local funeral homes to come to some agreement about how to provide the service. Diaz said the service will be allowed, and it's just a matter of figuring out how to provide it in a safe manner.
This is reassuring, since the practice of funeral processions is an ancient one. As I told the Times reporter, in seminary I was instructed that the minister, priest or rabbi leads the procession, followed by the casket, the family, and the other mourners. This has been done for hundreds, probably thousands of years. I'm sure there are drivers who are annoyed at the delays caused by funeral processions, but in my mind this is an important tradition that really should be continued. Isn't it worth a few extra moments of our time to pause, out of respect, for someone who's died? I hope so. And I hope the SPD will allow the custom to return to Seattle.