I-1474, which comes in response to House Bill 1054, passed in 2021, which limits police to engaging in a pursuit
The Center Square Washington
Initiative 1474 is an initiative to the Washington State Legislature that would allow police to pursue criminals when there is a reasonable suspicion that a violent crime has taken place.
Paul Guppy, vice president for research at the free market Washington Policy Center think tank, put out a policy note on I-1474, which comes in response to House Bill 1054, passed in 2021, that limits police to engaging in a pursuit if there is “probable cause” to arrest a person in the vehicle for committing a specific violent crime or sex offense, such as murder, kidnapping, drive-by shooting and rape.
Reasonable suspicion is more of an inclination based on a police officer’s training and experience, and is a less stringent standard than probable cause, which relies on objective circumstances and evidence.
“Initiative 1474 would partially amend the actions taken by the Legislature in the 2021 session that weakened the ability of police to protect law-abiding citizens from being harmed by violent criminals,” the policy note concludes. “The measure would allow police to make stops when they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place, and to pursue criminals when police determine that letting them go would endanger the public.”
According to Guppy, his analysis of I-1474 is based on empirical evidence of the aftermath of HB 1054 going into effect on July 25, 2021.
“Since then, suspected criminals have learned they can simply run away from the police,” the policy note states. “The state patrol reports 934 incidents of drivers who simply ignored lights and sirens when police tried to make a traffic stop. One law-breaking driver called 911 and complained that the police were still following him. He said, ‘It’s a violation of 1054 – he’s not allowed to chase me.’”
“Law enforcement officials also report that since HB 1054 passed violent crime rates have increased and vehicle thefts are up by 93%.”
Real world experience has trumped theoretical hopes, Guppy noted.
“It reflects in effect that reality arrives,” he said of I-1474 during a phone interview with The Center Square.
That reality, he explained, is criminals have been incentivized to maximize what they can get away with at a minimum of risk.
“Some lawmakers did not think criminals talk to each other,” he observed.
Crime is a bipartisan issue, Guppy argued.
“This goes beyond Democrat or Republican,” he said, predicting that lawmakers in higher-crime areas will feel more pressure to act to modify HB 1054 during next year’s legislative session, which runs from Jan. 9 through April 23.
Guppy went on to say, “There is definitely a feeling that communities are less safe.”
I-1474 has a fair chance of being presented to the Legislature, he guessed.
“It’s getting a lot of attention,” Guppy said. “And that helps with gathering signatures.”
Initiative sponsors need to collect 324,516 valid signatures – 8% of the votes cast in the last election for governor – to submit I-1474 for consideration in the 2023 legislative session. The signatures must be received by the Secretary of State’s Office by December 30.
If I-1474 qualifies, lawmakers have three choices: 1) They can enact the initiative into law as is without the governor’s signature. 2) They can take no action, which would result in I-1474 being forwarded to voters on the November 2023 ballot. If voters approve the initiative, it becomes law. 3) Lawmakers can pass their own alternate version of the initiative, in which case both versions would appear on the November 2023 ballot. That means voters would decide if either version should become law, and if so, which one should pass.
Even if the initiative fails to make it to the Legislature, Guppy says the spotlight on this issue increases the odds of a legislative fix.
“The public doesn’t care how it gets done,” Guppy said, “by initiative or legislation.”
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