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Originally published Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 8:05 PM

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Clemmons case prompts new federal rules for out-of-state felons

The heated dispute between Washington and Arkansas after Maurice Clemmons killed four Lakewood police officers last November has led to a new set of federal rules tightening the supervision of out-of-state felons.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The heated dispute between Washington and Arkansas after Maurice Clemmons killed four Lakewood police officers last November has led to a new set of federal rules tightening the supervision of out-of-state felons.

On Thursday, corrections officials from all 50 states approved new regulations to more quickly send violent offenders back to their home states if they misbehave.

The new rules came after a months-long campaign by Washington state's Department of Corrections and Gov. Chris Gregoire, and represent the key element of change emerging from the Clemmons case.

"We owe it to the families of the fallen Lakewood police officers to propose rule changes that better support public safety, and that's what we did," Gregoire said in a news release.

The changes altered the Interstate Compact on Adult Offender Supervision, a relatively obscure corner of law enforcement until Clemmons killed the officers in a Parkland coffee shop. After the tragedy, documents emerged that showed Clemmons had slipped through loopholes of confusion and disagreement between Washington and Arkansas over the compact's rules.

Clemmons had moved to Washington state after his release from prison in Arkansas.

Eldon Vail, secretary of the Washington Department of Corrections, said if some of the new rules had been in place last fall they likely would have prevented Clemmons from getting out on bail after he was arrested in Washington.

"Our community corrections officers will have more authority over offenders in this state, and not be dependent on the decisions made 2,000 miles away," he said.

Since the shootings, Washington has refused to accept parolees and probationers from Arkansas.

The new rules go into effect next March and apply to the 112,700 offenders nationwide who are being supervised outside the state where they have been convicted. The rules include:

• A one-strike policy for offenders who commit new violent or sex crimes, requiring they be sent back to their home state. Previously, offenders had to commit three new "significant" infractions to be sent home. The old rule allowed Clemmons to remain in Washington even after he was charged with eight felonies last year.

• A requirement that out-of-state warrants are entered in the National Crime Information Center database, alerting law enforcement nationwide. A warrant issued by Arkansas last October, about a month before the officers were slain, wasn't entered in the system, allowing Clemmons to bail out of jail in November.

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• A requirement that a more comprehensive criminal history be shipped to the receiving state before an offender is allowed to move. After the murders, Washington complained that it received an incomplete packet from Arkansas on Clemmons to properly assess his risk.

The new rules add to a list of other changes already put in place. Among them is a streamlined system for alerting corrections officers when an offender on their caseload is released from jail, reflecting criticism the agency didn't know Clemmons made bail six days before the shootings.

Also, a constitutional amendment is on the Nov. 2 ballot to give judges more authority to deny bail for offenders such as Clemmons.

Clemmons was killed by a Seattle police officer 40 hours after killing Lakewood police Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Ronnie Owens and Greg Richards.

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605

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