Washington State Patrol (WSP) officials are concerned that citizens are no longer stopping for them, according to a Thursday report.
Between January 1 and May 17 of this year, the state agency logged 934 failure-to-yield instances, according to Northwest News Network. Longtime officers concurred that the phenomenon is unprecedented.
“The patrol and other police agencies around the state say they’ve never seen such blatant disregard for their lights and sirens,” Northwest News Network said. “The change in driver behavior comes after state lawmakers passed strict new rules on when police can engage in pursuits.”
“Something’s changed. People are not stopping right now,” Sgt. Darren Wright, a WSP spokesperson with three decades of experience, told the outlet. “It’s happening three to five times a shift on some nights and then a couple times a week on day shift.”
“It used to be sort of unusual and notable to see someone flee or to see someone simply choose not to stop on a traffic stop. Now it’s becoming incredibly common,” executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Steve Strachan added.
Many of the officers pointed to Washington’s HB1054 — a piece of legislation enacted last summer that limits police from engaging in vehicular pursuit in many circumstances. The state’s Democratic majority passed the law “in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other high-profile police killings,” according to Northwest News Network. State Rep. Jesse Johnson, a Democrat, said in March that he does not believe “pursuits in a 21st century policing system are needed.”
Strachan referred to a 911 call in which a driver with a suspended license complained that an officer was not permitted to pursue him because of the law. “I’m driving suspended, he’s not going to get me,” the driver said. “It’s a violation of 1054. He’s not allowed to chase me. You need to tell them to call it off.”
The disregard for law enforcement in Washington corresponds with a rise in shoplifting throughout much of California — where state law passed in 2014 dictates that shoplifting merchandise worth less than $950 is only a misdemeanor. In San Francisco, shoplifting has become so rampant that retailers are closing stores.
Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said last year, for example, that retail thefts in California locations are provoking employees to quit.
“These are traumatic experiences, and they are happening more and more across the country,” Barry told CNBC. She explained that San Francisco and other California cities represent “hot spots” for the thefts.
“When we talk about why there are so many people looking for other jobs or switching careers, this of course would be something that would play into my concerns for our people because, again, priority one is just human safety,” she said. “And it’s hard to deal with this potentially multiple times in one location.”
Walgreens shuttered five locations in San Francisco at the end of last year. “Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso said. “Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average.”