Dear friends and neighbors,
All people deserve to be safe and feel safe in their community. The Legislature made meaningful progress this year that will help prevent crimes, strengthen our support for survivors, and improve law enforcement training and recruitment.
Officer training and recruitment
A $19 million investment in the state budget will improve law enforcement training capabilities and recruitment over the next two years. In May, a new regional academy opened in Pasco. Other regional academies are expected to open in Skagit and Clark counties to help agencies respond to a national officer shortage and help recruit officers more representative of their home communities. We are starting to see signs of progress with more than 350 recruits currently being trained in our academies, and nearly 200 waiting to begin their classes.
Improving public safety
In addition to legislation I wrote about previously to prevent firearm violence, lawmakers passed legislation this year to prevent hate crimes, hazing, doxing, and the unauthorized disclosure of intimate images. Here are a few highlights:
- SB 5623 improves the prosecution of hate crimes. The bill incorporates assaults meant to intimidate and demean — like spitting on someone — in the definition of a hate crime and enables prosecutors to ensure offenders complete mental health or substance use treatment if needed.
- HB 1002, the Sam Martinez Stop Hazing Act, raises penalties for hazing and allows victims to seek restraining orders, as is the case for other serious crimes.
- HB 1165 establishes protections and provides a civil remedy for the unauthorized disclosure or threatened disclosure of intimate images, sometimes referred to as “revenge porn”.
- HB 1335 bans doxing. It creates a civil cause of action for publicly disclosing personally identifiable information with the intent to harass, intimidate, or otherwise cause harm.
- HB 1077 expands the courthouse dogs program, first passed in 2019, to support survivors of sexual or physical abuse during stressful legal proceedings and investigations in the community, not just in the courthouse.
- HB 1179 establishes a process for transparent, thorough, and complete compliance audits of independent investigations of deadly force incidents. These are critical to ensuring we are building trust and confidence in our justice system.
- HB 1766 establishes a Hope Card program, which allows domestic violence victims to carry a wallet-sized card around with them in lieu of protection order paperwork.
- HB 1112 increases penalties for killing a vulnerable victim with negligent driving.
- $2.2 million in the operating budget will create a centralized Organized Retail Crime Unit in the Attorney General’s office to coordinate, investigate, and prosecute multi-jurisdictional retail crime statewide.
Limitations on high-speed police chases
We know that high-speed police chases are inherently dangerous for the officers involved and innocent passengers and bystanders. In 2021, the Legislature passed HB 1054 to restrict these chases to situations with probable cause that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent crime, sex offense or escape; or reasonable suspicion the person is driving under the influence. Since then, the number of people killed in high-speed chases has gone down by 67%. However, complaints from law enforcement and perceptions of increased instances of flight from police led to proposals to repeal the provisions of HB 1054 restricting such chases.
This year the Legislature passed SB 5352 to modify the list of offenses for which law enforcement is allowed to engage in high-speed chases:
- A violent offense
- A sex offense
- A vehicular assault offense
- A domestic violence assault in the first, second, third, or fourth degree offense
- An escape
- Driving under the influence
The bill also changes the burden of proof so police can pursue suspects of those crimes under a reasonable suspicion standard, rather than probable cause. The bill passed by a narrow 26-23 margin in the Senate. I did not vote in favor of the bill, because I believe these chases are extremely dangerous and the potential benefits of engaging in a high-speed pursuit are worth the danger only in very limited circumstances. They put the suspect, the officer, and the public at risk.
Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter. If you missed my previous updates on gun safety, reproductive freedom, public education, housing, LGBTQ+ rights, climate action, criminal justice reform, health care, community facilities improvements, behavioral health, voting rights, or public benefits and services, they are available on my website. Please reach out with any questions at Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov.