Washington state Governor Jay Inslee stated in an interview with John Carlson of KVI last week that he supports legislation aimed at reforming drug laws and police pursuits. The governor mentioned the legislative reform (SB 5476) that he signed into law in May 2021, which downgraded simple drug possession to a misdemeanor, allocated resources for the creation of a statewide treatment and recovery program, and obligated police to redirect individuals with substance abuse disorders to these services instead of jail.
As a temporary response to the state Supreme Court’s February 2021 “Blake” decision, SB 5476 threw out existing felony drug laws because they didn’t require the state to prove intent. Agreeing with Carlson’s assertion that the system isn’t working and needs change, Inslee referred to the Supreme Court’s decision as a “grenade dropped into the system.”
According to the governor, the key to solving the drug problem is making more treatment and recovery facilities available, and that some people need to be forced into getting treatment for substance abuse.
In the interview, the governor also said that he is willing to give consideration to legislative revisions pertaining to police pursuits. Also signed into law by Inslee in 2021, HB 1054 limited vehicular pursuits by police unless there was a reasonable suspicion that a driver was impaired, an escaped felon, or had committed a violent crime or sex crime. Previously, the standard was
The Washington State Patrol recorded an average of 1,200 suspects who refused to stop for troopers between 2014 and 2020, Carlson reported. He noted that the number rose to 3,100 in 2022. Carlson also pointed out that auto thefts saw a significant surge after the implementation of HB 1054, with 45,000 motor vehicles stolen last year, surpassing the previous record of 30,000. “I think there are some reasonable things that could be done in that regard,” Inslee said, although he didn’t offer any specific suggestions.
Legislation has been introduced during this session to restore the reasonable suspicion threshold.
“So I think the general thrust to try to reduce those risks and find a balance between the risk of injury during a high-speed chase and otherwise is, you know, you’re trying to hit the right mark on the dial,” the governor said. “I think it’s not a perfect mark on the dial, and that’s why I’m open to some changes in this regard.”