Bill expands use of police tracking

Originally published Saturday, January 17, 2004


Olympia, WA - A proposed bill dealing with police usage of electronic or mechanical tracking devices such as global positioning systems prompted opposition in the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday from members of the American Civil Liberties Union and other concerned citizens.

The bill is necessary to protect law-abiding citizens, supporters said.

"The more devices we have to protect you, the better off you're going to be," said Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane, who sponsored the bill.

He cited the case of William "Brad" Jackson, a man convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 56 years in prison for killing his 9-year-old daughter. A global positioning system device attached to his vehicle helped officers track him to the body.

The bill extends the length of time tracking equipment can be in place, from 10 days to 60. It also requires that, after an emergency search, law enforcement agencies have up to 48 hours to obtain a warrant.

"It gives us accountability," said Tom McBride of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. "It's giving us a number so we can do things by the book."

Sen. Luke Esser, R-Bellevue, agreed. "It provides clarity," he said.

But several citizens testified that such technology goes further than protecting their rights and invades their privacy. "It tips the scale too much," said Robert Mahler, a Seattle attorney. "It's going overboard to ensure public safety and isn't balanced with the right of individuals to keep private."

"We're saying that this is not necessary," agreed Jerry Sheehan, legislative director of the Washington American Civil Liberties Union. "We don't see why they're seeking it."

Sheehan said the bill might allow the government to impose "hidden changes that are unnecessary." He called the tracking technique an "open-ended fishing expedition."

McCaslin said he's confident the bill will pass this session.


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