New policing laws will likely lead to increased retail theft

Aug 5, 2021
Written by Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

With the recent enactment of several new policing laws, retail thieves will have an easier time stealing from merchants. Unfortunately, I fear the legislature may have gone too far in its rush to adopt new police reforms. Are our law enforcement and legal systems in need of reform? Yes. But don’t put such onerous laws in place that tie the hands of our police to the point where they can’t do the job they swore an oath to do.

For example, two measures say that “probable cause” must be established directly by a law enforcement officer before they can intervene or apprehend. This means that even if a shop owner, store manager, employee, or loss prevention officer watches a crime being committed and then calls law enforcement, they will not be able to act.

Washington State will be an outlier. We will be the only state in the country with such a law on the books.

Police departments across our state are already struggling to recruit new and retain existing officers. The City of Seattle has lost several hundred officers to transfers, different careers, and early retirement.

Ultimately the ones that will pick up the costs of increasing retail theft will be consumers. Stores will have to raise prices, and the availability of some products will be limited.

I think the 2022 Legislature should take a close look at the data on thefts and other crimes and make adjustments to the laws they enacted.