Sen. Wilson, GOP lawmakers announce bills targeting Washington's 'anti-policing' laws

The bills would repeal HB 1310, which requires police officers to use the least amount of force necessary and limits when police can pursue a suspect

By Shari Phiel
The Columbian

VANCOUVER, Wash. — State House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced a set of "Safe Washington" legislative proposals, a package of bills aimed at reforming what lawmakers call "anti-policing" laws that went into effect in July.

"During the last legislative session, the majority dropped the ball on public safety," said state Sen. Mike Padden, R- Spokane Valley, at a press conference. "They systematically removed some critical tools for law enforcement, reduced punishment for criminals and missed opportunities to protect the public."

Padden, the ranking member of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said rising crime rates across the state are the result of those new laws.

The package of 22 House bills and 21 Senate bills primarily takes aim at House Bill 1310 and House Bill 1054, passed during the 2021 legislative session. HB 1310 requires police officers to use the least amount of force necessary and limits when police can pursue a suspect. HB 1054 bans law enforcement from using "military equipment" such as .50-caliber ammunition or greater.

[RELATED: Washington’s new laws tie the hands of law enforcement officers]

Joining lawmakers on the announcement was Jill Brown, the wife of slain Clark County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Jeremy Brown, who was fatally shot in the line of duty on July 23.

Jill Brown said participating in the legislative process gave her the opportunity to see how the bills were affecting not just law enforcement but also mental health care professionals and their communities.

"Jeremy was an exceptional human being in all aspects of his life," she said. "There are no words, still, that might appropriately convey what has been taken from us."

Brown said her late husband had expressed many concerns about the new laws, specifically HB 1310.

"Knowing this and paired with the understanding it could have played a role in our loss, I was immediately compelled to give him a voice," Brown said.

Brown said that in the days preceding her husband's death, two police pursuits of the suspects had been called off. She said she could not confirm whether they were called off because of the new laws, which did not go into effect until after his death.

"Advocating for law enforcement is now my full-time job," she added.

Included in the Safe Washington package is a full repeal of HB 1310, sponsored by state Sen. John Braun, R- Centralia. In an interview, Braun said he's not opposed to police reforms, but he said the new laws passed went too far.

"We've had an enormous increase in crime in the last year," he said.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Lynda Wilson, R- Vancouver, would increase the penalties for theft of a firearm, and another bill would allow victims of domestic violence to be present at all sentencing hearings.

"Even the Democrats are saying they might have overstepped," Wilson said in an interview. "We were No. 1 in property crimes a few years ago, and it's done nothing but go straight up."

Wilson is also sponsoring a bill to amend the state constitution to allow courts to withhold bail in felony domestic violence cases.

"We know there have been some disastrous results from these policies. Violent crime is at a 25-year high, murder is up 80 percent, aggravated assaults are up, rape is up," Padden said. "These policies ... are making Washington a dangerous place."

Padden did not specify his source for these rates or whether they were statewide numbers.

NEXT: A letter to the American public: There is no such thing as 'the least' amount of physical force

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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