Down again:

Kristie's Law' comes up short before the Judiciary Committee

LARRY MITCHELL - Staff Writer
May 5, 2004
 
SACRAMENTO -- "Kristie's Law," the police-pursuit bill, lost again in a Senate committee Tuesday, but Sen. Sam Aanestad wasn't giving up hope the bill might still pass this year.
 
Brett Michelin, Aanestad's chief of staff, said police groups seem to be getting the message that restricting pursuits has significant support in the Legislature. They're working on proposals of their own, hoping to avoid having to live with legislative mandates their members dislike, he said.
 
Nevertheless, statewide law-enforcement groups, which oppose "Kristie's Law," appeared to be winning a victory Tuesday as the bill by Sen. Aanestad, a Grass Valley Republican, came before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a second time.
 
The bill needs four votes to move out of the committee. Last week it got three votes. It appeared that on Tuesday it would still only get three votes.
 
Aanestad, who represents Butte County, introduced "Kristie's Law" at the urging of Mark and Candy Priano of Chico.
 
One evening in January 2002, the Prianos were driving on Palm Avenue in Chico with their two children, when their van was hit broadside by an SUV driven by a 15-year-old girl who had taken it from her mother to go joyriding and wound up being pursued by Chico police. In the crash, the Prianos' 15-year-old daughter, Kristie, sustained fatal injuries.
 
The family contends the pursuit should never have taken place that police should have arrested the girl later when she returned home. After doing research on pursuits, the Prianos said they discovered a growing campaign by people around the country to restrict police pursuits.
 
Last year, when they took their case to Aanestad, the senator agreed to carry a bill. He introduced a measure last year, but postponed moving it forward so his staff could do more research on the issue.
 
Earlier this year, Aanestad introduced Senate Bill 1866. Its chief effect would have been to set a statewide policy allowing police to initiate pursuits only when fleeing suspects posed an "imminent peril" to the public.
 
Representatives of large police groups, such as the Police Officers Research Association of California, have argued "imminent peril" is a vague concept and that officers need wide discretion in deciding when to pursue suspects. Chico Police Chief Bruce Hagerty strongly opposes the bill.
 
The measure passed the Senate Public Safety Committee in April. Last Tuesday, it came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but failed to get the four votes it needed.
 
After several Judiciary Committee members who supported the bill expressed interest in seeing it move forward this year, Aanestad arranged for it to get a second hearing before the Judiciary Committee. He took the language from his original measure, Senate Bill 1866, and put it into another measure that wasn't moving, Senate Bill 1403. But when the vote came Tuesday, SB1403 fell short just as SB1866 had.
 
Last week, three senators voted for the bill: Committee chair Martha Escutia, D-Norwalk, Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Byron Sher, D-Stanford. Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, voted against the bill. And three other senators abstained: Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin, Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, and Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles.
 
In Tuesday's voting Escutia and Sher again voted for "Kristie's Law", and Morrow and Cedillo had voted no. Ducheny, Kuehl and Ackerman abstained.
 
Michelin said he was disappointed. During Tuesday's hearing, Ducheny talked like she was going to vote for the bill, but in the end she abstained, he said.
 
Still, he said, he was encouraged because representatives of the police groups said Tuesday they were close to finishing their own language for a bill restricting pursuits.
 
It may be possible to insert "Kristie's Law" into yet another bill later this year, Michelin said. Legislators who support restricting pursuits feel it's important to keep a bill moving, since that's the best way to press police groups to work out a compromise, he added.
 

 

 


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