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Washington to fund more non-armed vehicle pursuit technology for law enforcement

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(The Center Square) – As restrictions on law enforcement pursuing criminals is set to take effect on June 6 after passing in the Legislature, the state is offering police agencies a second funding opportunity to buy equipment capable of pursuing suspects without the use of firearms.

A request for proposal put out by the Washington State Department of Commerce, Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention/Community Safety Unit is intended for a law enforcement agency to purchase ”specific vehicle pursuit technology” such as global positioning system tracking equipment, automated license plate reading technology, aircrafts, and drones. Commerce says it will award multiple agencies a total of $1.4 million to purchase the equipment, with the dollar amount dependent on the number of officers in the department.

The grant funding was included in the Legislature’s 2023 operating budget, which also appropriated $1.5 million for the first round of grants last year. The agency to receive the most funding was the Spokane Sheriff’s Office, which was given $204,600 for a thermal imaging camera for the Spokane Regional Air Support Unit, which owns and operates four helicopters used to engage in vehicle pursuits.

Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Executive Director Steve Strachan wrote in a statement to The Center Square that the association “appreciates funding for pursuit technology because pursuing suspects should not be the only option. But there is more to be done. While the legislature agreed to I-2113 they did not pass bipartisan supported legislation (SB 6200) to address fleeing suspects through other measures like tougher penalties, impounding vehicles, and increased use of technology. Law enforcement will continue to push for more of those tools and we hope the word gets out to criminals that the ‘get out of jail free’ days of driving away unchecked are over.”

Created in 2020, the Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention/Community Safety Unit stated goal is a “better understanding and reducing firearm violence in communities across Washington.”

The Q&A period for the RFP is April 16 – May 8. There is a pre-proposal conference on May 1 at 10:30 a.m.

Proposals are due on May 28, with the first round of funding occurring between July 1, 2024-June 30, 2025.

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