Letter to the Editor: 'Fact Check' Misses Mark on Coverage of Mailer, Congresswoman Says

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Recently, my office issued a legislative mailer to citizens about two deeply flawed laws that are hindering the police in Washington. In it, I referenced the tragic murder of Clark County Sheriff Detective Jeremy Brown to highlight the shortcomings of these bills Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law — HB 1310 and HB 1054.

The Columbian newspaper issued a “fact check” of my mailer that also appeared in The Chronicle but, ironically, its fact check ignored key facts.

First, the article incorrectly asserts that the new law does not hinder police from pursuing a suspect under these new laws to stop criminals and protect innocent civilians. My mailer details how Sgt. Brown’s alleged killer and his accomplices were suspected to have broken other laws before the murder but were not detained. The story says “there’s nothing in the law that makes a difference in the situation.”

But that flies in the face of what police say. A July 26 KING 5 News story entitled “New Washington law restricting police pursuits causing concern among law enforcement” quotes several officers describing how HB 1054 will result in fewer criminals being removed from the streets.

My conversations with Sgt. Brown’s widow Jill centered on the bad police reform bills as we discussed the circumstances of his killing and the roles these laws played. She has recounted repeatedly that two police pursuits of the suspects were called off prior to the murder.

Second, the story implies the Clark County Sheriff’s Department was unaffected by these new laws since they did not go into effect until July 25 — two days after Sgt. Brown’s murder.

That’s false. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office told me directly it was changing policies early to comply with the new law. Other police departments in Washington changed their procedures more than a month early to comply.

Furthermore, the Clark County sheriff issued a memo prior to Sgt. Brown’s murder predicting (with grave accuracy) that “the new legislation will have some unintentional consequences that could put the public and police officers in jeopardy.”

It’s disappointing that so much energy has been put into minimizing, dismissing and excusing the damage these bad police reform laws have already done. But I won’t be swayed from doing everything I can to fix them.

 

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler

R-Battle Ground