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The Chico Enterprise-Record

Kristie's Law gets second chance

By LARRY MITCHELL - Staff Writer

Sen. Sam Aanestad's bill to restrict police pursuits has been revived after being dealt a defeat last week.
 
An amended version of the measure is to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon.
 
In that committee last week, the bill failed by one vote. Members of the panel granted it the right to a second hearing, but Aanestad's staff said with legislative deadlines closing in, the bill appeared to be finished for this year.
 
However, the measure will get a second chance through a political maneuver known as "gut and amend." That's where the original language is removed from a bill that is going nowhere and replaced with language from another bill.
 
In this case, the language from Aanestad's measure on pursuits, Senate Bill 1866, has replaced the original language of a bill by Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Garden Grove. Dunn's measure, Senate Bill 1403, originally dealt with procedures for filing lawsuits. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee on March 4, but no further action was taken on it.
 
The new version of SB 1403 will be heard by the Judiciary Committee today.
 
Aanestad, a Republican from Grass Valley, designed his measure, known as Kristie's Law, to limit police chases to only those cases where the suspects posed "an imminent peril" to the public.
 
At last week's hearing, police representatives opposed to SB 1866 argued the "imminent peril" definition was unworkable. Aanestad agreed to make amendments, but the bill failed anyway.
 
Gene Wong, chief counsel for the Judiciary Committee, said in the new version, Aanestad has agreed to drop the definition "imminent peril" but retain the concept as a "standard," which would allow police somewhat more flexibility.
 
Wong said he understood Aanestad might go a step further and drop "imminent peril" altogether in favor of allowing pursuits only of people suspected of having committed "violent felonies." That standard is followed by a number of police agencies around the country.
 
Aanestad wrote Kristie's Law at the request of Mark and Candy Priano of Chico. Their 15-year-old daughter, Kristie, was fatally injured in 2002, after the van she and her family were traveling in was hit broadside by a vehicle being chased by Chico police.
 
It's estimated at least 350 Americans die each year from injuries caused by police pursuits. Many are police themselves or innocent bystanders.
 
There is a national trend for police agencies to adopt more restrictive policies on pursuits, according to an expert on the subject, professor Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina.
 
Aanestad, who calls the issue a serious public safety matter, wants California to adopt a policy setting minimum standards for pursuits statewide.
 
Published in the Chico Enterprise-Record May 3, 2004
 
 

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