(Central Square) – A law passed last year in Washington state that restricts harassment of vehicles seems to have an unintended side effect: drivers refuse to stop when police try to detain them.
A Washington state patrol reports that nearly a thousand drivers essentially ignored military lights and sirens during the first five months of this year.
Between January 1 and May 17, 934 people on state highways continued to drive as the military tried to stop them to stop traffic.
In 2021, the state legislature was passed House Bill 1054 which, among other things, restricts police from engaging in harassment if there is a “probable reason” for arresting a person in a car for committing a specific violent or sexual crime, such as murder, kidnapping, shooting from a car, and rape.
Sergeant Darren Wright, a WSP spokesman, had no comment regarding the legislature’s adoption of HB 1054 or what the military thinks of the law.
“The agency will continue to comply with the law,” he said.
Others have spoken out against what they see as a law that deprives law enforcement officers of the ability to do their job.
“It should come as no surprise to anyone,” Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy John Nawells said of drivers refusing to stop at police after HB 1054, which he described as a “one size fits all” approach.
He continued, “It’s out and people are enjoying it.”
This view is shared by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which expressed Fr. statement in April recorded a sharp rise in car thefts in the state on HB 1054.
A WASPC statement said car thefts had risen 93% after HB 1054 and other police reform laws came into force in late July 2021.
“Evidence shows that our law enforcement agencies and communities see every day – of course, and criminals know what they can do under our current laws,” WASPC Executive Director Steve Strechan said in a statement.
Strachan went on to say: “I have never seen criminals as brave as they are now. Our mayors, law enforcement, and the public have sought help, and the legislature has made a specific decision to continue to allow brazen contempt for the law. No one wants more occupations that are inherently dangerous, but the current law has created an atmosphere of contempt for the law even at simple stops. This is one example of a changing atmosphere that is and will remain unacceptable and dangerous to public safety. Escape in a car should not be a card for getting out of jail. ”
Legislation to ease restrictions on police harassment was not passed during this year’s legislature.
House Act 1788which was amended to allow police to prosecute in cases of violent crime, escape or DUI, no vote was taken.
Senate Bill 5919 would lower the standard of police harassment from “probable cause” to “reasonable suspicion”, but ultimately failed to get enough support for a full vote by the end of the 2022 legislative session.
Others praised the law, which restricts police chases to only the most serious offenses.
The source State Senator Jesse Johnson, D-Federal Way, the main sponsor of HB 1054, opposes lowering the threshold for classes.
“I just don’t think the 21st century police system needs to be searched,” he said in a March interview with TVW.Inside Olympia».
An analysis Dr. Martina Morris, a retired professor of statistics and sociology at the University of Washington who provided data for HB 1054, found that 30 people died in the chase in Washington between 2015 and 2021, nearly half of them casual passers-by or car passengers. who escaped.
Earlier this year, testifying against HB 1788 in the House Security Committee, Morris noted that “two-thirds of fatal speed races lead to the death or injury of a passenger or casual person, and half of the deaths from these incidents are accidental or passenger. . After last year’s reforms, we saw a 55% reduction in speed deaths in Washington state. “
Nawels urged lawmakers next year to develop a legislative solution that would achieve a happy environment between police chasing dangerous criminals and ensuring public safety in the process.
“Criminal justice is all about that balance,” he said.