John McCroskey Commentary: Legislature Rolls Out More Terrible Ideas on Police, Homeless


The Legislature is in full swing, and really the only question I have is: What new spending, new agencies or confusing laws and regulations can they come up with in Olympia this year?

I read that Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing more than $800 million to create another (as if we don’t have more than enough now) state agency of bureaucrats to address the homeless issue. Specifically, those who’ve set up residence all along the freeways in parks around our state and in many cases made an ecological disaster all around them.

This mess grew because of thinkers like Inslee and judges who gave these squatters rights to public property they’ve never had, and it has grown exponentially.

Remember the lovely “Welcome To Centralia” park-and-ride off I-5? It was a mess, and eventually it was cleaned up, but no one I talked to would have thought about parking their car there because of the mess it had become.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a homelessness problem or a housing shortage, pretty sure there is. There are those who need help, and we should help them, but not everyone free ranging is looking to escape their situation. I see lots of younger folks who should be at work or school but aren’t.

Some say “but, but some of them have a substance abuse problem or mental health issues.”  That’s true too. And yet there are knotheads making drugs legal or decriminalizing them, which hasn't helped, all while closing mental health beds or making it darn hard to get someone who clearly needs help what they need.

But if the war on drugs was such a dismal failure, can’t we agree that the war on poverty is even a worse failure? I have no idea how much money has been wasted over the years, but I am sure it’s a lot. And what do we have to show for it?

So by all means, let's do something meaningful about this. 

But if Inslee was to create a whole new agency of bureaucrats to go with the other slew of social services we already have, all he’d be doing is spending most of the money on government jobs and pensions and not on services to people who need it.

Isn’t the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

And speaking of insanity, two senators — Nguyen and Nobles — came up with something that will make us all safer on the road. Not! They’ve introduced a bill (Senate Bill 5485) prohibiting traffic stops on a number of infractions because apparently it leads to unnecessary interaction between a driver and an officer. And that interaction is the problem these days — not the conduct or the driving of the person contacted.

So, failure to keep right: No problem. Hang out in the fast lane all you want.

Improper turn? Don’t worry about it, bad driving will now be a right.

Failure to stop? I assume that means running a red light. What could possibly go wrong?

Failure to dim, which means it’s now OK to blind oncoming traffic with the very bright lights of today. And since this is one factor in locating drunk drivers, well that’s just one more reason not to be able to stop them.

Driving without a license or valid registration or proof of insurance — not a problem.

Then there is this section that is confusing but I believe it means this: If you contact a driver (which probably won’t happen without a lawyer in the car to advise the officer whether he can stop or approach the car at all) and smell marijuana or alcohol, no enforcement can occur.

“(i) The following violations suspected solely on the basis of the odor of marijuana: (i) Driving under the influence under RCW 46.61.502; (ii) driver under twenty-one consuming alcohol or marijuana under RCW 46.61.503; and (iii) physical control of a motor vehicle under the influence under RCW 46.61.504.”

They already made a mess with the poorly thought out police reforms last session and promised to fix those. 

I haven’t heard that they did and if this nonsense passes it will just get worse.


John McCroskey was Lewis County sheriff from 1995 to 2005. He lives outside Chehalis and can be contacted at