Sunday’s slayings of four Lakewood police officers by a multiple felon free on bail has created a flurry of ideas among state lawmakers. Among them, Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, is now seeking to establish committee hearings to investigate “all aspects of the case” when the Legislature reconvenes in Olympia next month for the 2010 session.
As The Olympian’s Brad Shannon reported Wednesday, Hurst, chairman of the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, has said he wants open-ended hearings that could lead to follow-up or research by the Sentencing Guidelines Commission or others.
In a phone call from Olympia this afternoon, Hurst told me at least a dozen fellow lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, approached him today with ideas for potential legislation.
Among the ideas, overhauling the bail-bond system, re-examining penalties for rendering criminal assistance to fugitives, amending Washington’s inter-state compacts regarding parolees and re-investigating the state’s “three strikes” law, Hurst said.
Still, Hurst said he favors a slow, cerebral approach before making any law changes.
“We first need to have a comprehensive and thoughtful process to investigate what happened,” Hurst said. “Let’s find out exactly what changes need to be made, so something like this does not happen again.”
Authorities say ex-convict and child rape suspect Maurice Clemmons shot and killed Lakewood Police Officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards, Ronald Owens and Sgt. Mark Renninger early Sunday as they sat in a Parkland coffee shop. With alleged help from relatives and friends, Clemmons then managed to flee to Seattle, avoiding police for nearly two full days until he was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer early Tuesday.
Hurst, who represents parts of King and Pierce Counties in the 31st legislative district, served more than 25 years in law enforcement, most recently as commander of a 15-city violent crimes task force. His law enforcement experience, which includes working as a master instructor and working with federal and state agencies, has given him a good knowledge base of the criminal justice system to help guide him in the committee hearing process, Hurst said.
“I’ve been talking to legislators throughout the day about (the Lakewood shootings),” Hurst told me today. “They’re sickened, they’re infuriated on both sides of the aisle.”
“I can guarantee you, changes will be made,” he added. “But the key is, we can’t jump the gun.”
Hurst said he’s having ongoing conversations with fellow lawmakers and the governor’s office, and expects to schedule definitive committee hearing dates on the Lakewood shootings sometime in January.
“There are still people being arrested and being charged in this case,” Hurst said. “In the bigger picture, there are many, many pieces to this puzzle. We have to be patient and methodical to help us figure out what needs to be done.”
“Before we do any fixes, we must be sure they’re the right fixes. Any changes we make have to be substantive and not just knee-jerk reactions.”
One measure that Hurst said he for sure will propose in the coming legislative session is a proposal providing a full college tuition waiver to children of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
“I feel horrible about the burden on those families,” Hurst said. “I think having those kids get an education is the least we can do.”
“It’s time that we do this,” Hurst added. “We already do this for the families of soldiers. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do this for law enforcement officers.”