FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) – A lawmaker in Frankfort proposed a bill this session to make dangerous police chases safer.
House Bill 298 would put rules in place to help officers handle high-speed pursuits.
Representative James Tipton decided to write the legislation after a week-long stretch where more than half a dozen people died in Kentucky because of high-speed police chases.
“There was a five-day period where seven people lost their lives across the Commonwealth in three separate accidents,” Rep. Tipton said.
One of those victims was Rep. Tipton’s constituent, Jill Hurst.
A recent high school graduate, the 18-year-old was coming home from a football game at her alma mater last September, when she died in a crash.
State police said the driver was high on acid, trying to get away from officers when his car hit Hurst’s.
“If this high-speed chase didn’t occur, Jill would be with me here today,” Addison McCoun testified, in front of the House Judiciary Committee, Wednesday. “This legislation will protect every citizen of our Commonwealth. This is not a partisan issue.”
“We want people to understand they’re putting their lives at risk, they’re putting the lives of other people at risk, and also the law enforcement community,” notes Tipton.
Representative Tipton’s proposed bill, named for Jill, requires law enforcement agencies to come up with a pursuit plan and to set aside time to train their men and women on that plan.
“We’re not asking them to actually tell them what they need to have in their policy, but we’re asking that their policy needs to cover certain aspects,” he says. “This is not about condemning our law enforcement agencies. They have a tremendously difficult job. They have to make split-second decisions, but we want them to have good policies and procedures in place.”
Tipton says the bill supports officers, but do officers support it?
The Kentucky Sheriff’s Association and the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police aren’t endorsing it, at least not yet. Leaders with both organizations told WKYT their support is on hold. Changes, they say, need to be made. Rep. Tipton has already made some. He dropped the number of required training hours from eight to four.
“We don’t have the simulators. We don’t have the track times. So, we worded it a minimum of four hours,” he notes.
And he plans to let agencies decide whether to make their pursuit policies public.
Kentucky State Police isn’t taking a position on the proposed bill. Their public affairs branch released a statement on the bill, reading in part:
“The Kentucky State Police does support training and policies for Law enforcement officers that would increase officer and public safety. KSP has a long history of training and policies regarding a number of different aspects of law enforcement work, and pursuits would rank highly among these.”