Legislation designed to curb inequities in traffic stops and improve safety on Washington's roadways is making its way through the state House.

House Bill 1513 (HB 1513), which is also known as Traffic Safety For All, would disallow law enforcement from making stops for violations such as expired license tabs, misdemeanor warrants, or vehicle equipment issues unless they present an immediate hazard.

Proponents of the measure say this would make police focus on greater concerns to public safety such as DUIs, distracted driving, and speeding.

But 12th District Rep. Keith Goehner (R) of Dryden says the bill would handcuff more officers than it would criminals.

"There are so many things about this bill that really hamper the ability of officers to do good policing. And with what we've seen with the public safety issue being so uppermost in people's minds, this is just saying to those who are already running afoul of the law anyway, 'why should I care?'."

Backers of the legislation, like the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, also say it would combat racial inequities related to traffic stops.

Goehner, however, says it would create greater inequality for all of the state's law-abiding citizens.

"We do have a small segment of our society that creates a disproportionate amount of grief for the rest of us. So I think it's really important for us to make sure that we're very mindful of what we're doing as we look to take away the tools that law enforcement officers should have."

A 2019 study by InvestigateWest found that troopers with the Washington State Patrol searched the vehicles of Blacks, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders nearly twice as often as those of white drivers, but discovered a lower rate of contraband, while Native Americans were searched at a rate five times higher than whites.

The bill, which was introduced by 37th District Rep. Chipalo Street (D) of Seattle would also require officers to immediately inform drivers and passengers of the reason(s) for making a stop.

The House Committee on Transportation took executive action on HB 1513 on Thursday (February 23) after it received two public hearings earlier on during in the legislative sessions.

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