OLYMPIA – With the family members of fallen police officers in the gallery, the House of Representatives passed five new public safety laws to better protect the public and take care of loved ones left behind when a police officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty.
"We will never forget those who served or the families they leave behind," said Rep. Christopher Hurst (D-Enumclaw), who spoke on the floor of his years as an undercover detective, with his wife and family worried about the day that he wouldn't come home.
"I have lost friends and partners on the job, and I mourned each of them -- but I never felt that any of them died in vain. Their lives meant something. They made a difference, and we need to make a difference today."
Six police officers were shot and killed in the latter part of 2009, with four police officers dying at the hands of Maurice Clemmons in the biggest massacre of police officers in state history.
The five laws passed by the House are:
• HB 1203 Toughening penalties for the crime of rendering criminal assistance • HB 1679 Catastrophic benefits for police officers and firefighters completely disabled and unable to work due to an injury in the line of duty • HB 2625 Ending the practice of booking bail, where suspects can post bail according to a formula, without seeing a judge at all • HB 2422 Giving victims notice when criminally insane escape from a state institution • HB 2519 Death benefits for the families of fallen police officers and firefighters
Rep. Troy Kelley (D-Lakewood) said his law, House Bill 2625, would end the practice of booking bail, which allowed Lakewood shooter Maurice Clemmons to post bail on the weekend without seeing a judge.
"Requiring a judge’s approval will help us respond quickly, yet rationally, to recent tragedies in our law enforcement community," Kelley said. "In 32 of 39 counties, this is the law today. Many people have asked me why this isn’t true in all of our counties, and I would ask the same question. We must act now to correct this problem and keep our families safe.”
Rep. John Driscoll (D-Spokane) co-sponsored HB 2422 and spoke in favor of the importance of notifying victims, their families and trial witnesses whenever a criminally insane offender escapes from a state institution, as Paul Phillips did when he fled during a field trip to the Spokane County Fair last September.
"I worked in the legal offender unit at Eastern State Hospital many years ago," Driscoll said. "I know how dangerous some of these offenders are. We must ensure that our public is kept safe. This law is the right thing to do in order to ensure unstable and potentially dangerous individuals are properly supervised. When and if they do manage to escape it’s imperative that law enforcement -- and others who need to know -- be notified immediately.”
Rep. Al O'Brien (D-Mountlake Terrace) spoke on the floor about a Seattle police officer he worked with who died 25 years ago, but his family still marks the anniversary of his death.
"They remember him, just as families here today will remember their loved ones," said O'Brien, a retired Seattle police sergeant and combat veteran of the Vietnam War. "And we will never forget these fallen heroes."
Rep. Tami Green (D-Lakewood) spoke in favor of her legislation, House Bill 2519, to give better death benefits to the family members and children of police officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty. Right now, the families of police officers receive no benefits until they reach 10 years of service, and one of the Lakewood officers who died was at nine years.
"It's hard enough to pay the bills when you have two breadwinners," Green said. "This bill fixes the law and makes sure that we can take care of the families of the brave men and women who take care of us every day."
BACKGROUND INFORMATION November 29, 2009 -- Four Lakewood police officers were executed in a coffee shop by Maurice Clemmons, pardoned from a life sentence by ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Never in our state's history have so many police officers fallen on the same day, or at the hands of the same attacker.
October 31, 2009 -- Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton was shot and killed as he sat in his patrol car with a trainee he was instructing.
December 21, 2009 -- Pierce County sheriff Sgt. Nick Hausner and Deputy Kent Mundell are shot responding to a domestic violence call. Hausner survived his wounds; Mundell did not.
September 17, 2009 – Criminally-insane killer Paul Phillip escapes from custody during a field trip to the Spokane County Fair. He was later caught with a weapon in his backpack in Goldendale by sheriff’s deputies – one of whom Phillip had seriously injured during a previous arrest years earlier.
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