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Gov. Gregoire announces plan to enhance community protection, safety of officers

For Immediate Release: January 13, 2010

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today outlined a series of proposals to increase the safety of communities, as well as the law enforcement officers that protect them.

“In recent months, I have personally met too many grieving law enforcement families, who through the violence of a stranger have lost a mother, a father, a spouse, a son, a daughter,” Gregoire said. “I pledged I would support them, and all our men and women in uniform.”

Gregoire said she is proposing to add a new option in the state’s justice system: guilty and mentally ill. This option would allow courts to find a person guilty of a crime and sentence them to prison, instead of a state psychiatric hospital.

“The rights of dangerous mentally ill offenders can’t trump the safety of our families,” Gregoire said. “If an offender is guilty and mentally ill, they will be guaranteed appropriate treatment inside our prison system.”

Gregoire added that for those people who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity, and therefore have not been convicted of a crime, she is proposing they face a newly created Safety Review Panel, which will consider the release with “an eye toward protecting our community.”

Gregoire also announced she plans to ask the Legislature to amend the constitution, and provide judges the discretion to deny bail where public safety is at risk.

“We would like to thank the Governor for once again reaching out to and listening to and supporting the recommendations of the law enforcement community,” said Don Pierce, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. “We believe these recommendations increase public safety in a thoughtful way. However, we must realize that we do not live in a failsafe society and we will not be able to prevent all tragedies.”

Additionally, Gregoire said she is:

-Directing the Department of Corrections to link to the State Victim Notification System to make certain the department is notified when an offender is released from jail.

-Working with the law enforcement community to improve computer alerts so an officer knows whether an individual they are contacting has a history of violent criminal behavior.

-Seeking stiffer penalties for offenders in Community Custody who assault a law enforcement officer or a community corrections officer.

-Ensuring that families of fallen officers receive the support they deserve by proposing that survivors receive benefits regardless of length of service. Gregoire is also proposing that children of fallen officers receive a free college education.