Washington group says tax breaks, police pursuits are top priority for initiative effort
Washington group says tax breaks, police pursuits are top priority for initiative effort

Source: Google News

I-1474 would allow for pursuits when an officer has reasonable suspicion a crime has been committed.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Sales and gas taxes would drop, and the governor’s emergency powers would be limited if initiatives currently in the works end up passing in the legislature, or by voters.

But one issue is the priority for the organization behind 11 initiatives currently in the signature-gathering phase.

Let’s Go Washington’s I-1474 would allow for more police chases.

“It is the most important reform that we need right now in our state government,” said Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen. Walsh said he is volunteering as the organization’s policy advisor.

Walsh said the group is trying to gather more than 400,000 signatures on petitions to present state legislators in January.

“It’s going to be close,” said Walsh, at a signature-gathering kiosk at Puyallup’s South Hill Mall.

If organizers collect enough signatures for the initiatives to the legislature, lawmakers will have to either enact the policies or send the issue to voters.

In 2021, legislators enacted new limits on when police could pursue suspects in vehicles.

Under the law, officers would need probable cause a violent or sexual crime had been committed. Suspects accused of driving under the influence could also be chased.

Walsh said I-1474 would allow for pursuits when an officer has reasonable suspicion a crime has been committed, and more crimes would be considered pursuable, including burglary and theft.

Law enforcement agencies have blamed the new law on an increase in crime, specifically car theft.

According to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, car theft cases have increased 82% compared to this point in 2021.

“Criminals know that law enforcement, police officers and sheriffs deputies are limited in how they are chase, so they run,” said Walsh.

Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, one of the sponsors of the 2021 law, expected the pursuit law to come up for debate regardless of the initiative’s fate.

“This is a high priority item for us,” said Goodman, “We definitely have to bring parties together and figure out what to put in place that’s going to be a fair balance between protecting public safety but also minimizing the bystander and other traffic deaths.”

Goodman said since the law went into effect in 2021, the state has seen an 80% decrease in deaths from vehicle pursuits.