Vehicle pursuit bills would roll back the crazy
January 19, 2023
Two years ago, the majority party in the state legislature decided to go crazy on crime. This legislative session, we have an opportunity to roll some of that crazy back and restore common sense to public safety when it comes to vehicular pursuits of criminal suspects.
During the 2021 legislative session, the majority party voted for HB 1054, which prohibits officers from pursuing criminal suspects without “probable cause,” rather than “reasonable suspicion.” The legal shift for officers means that unless they directly witnessed a crime occur, they can’t pursue. They also prohibited most vehicular pursuits.
The outcome was as predictable as rain on a stormy Seattle morning. Local police had their vehicles rammed, but were not able to go after the suspect. Between January-May 2022 more than 900 drivers failed to pull over for a Washington State Patrol trooper. Between July 26, 2021-May 18, 2022, Puyallup Police recorded 148 instances of drivers fleeing them. A kidnapping suspect even called 9-11 to cite HB 1054 while being vehicularly pursued by officers.
The situation got so out of hand that last year the legislature undid some of the harm by restoring most of an officer’s ability to pursue on foot. However, efforts to restore vehicular pursuits was stymied by key-ranking legislators with ideological axes to grind.
This year, we aim to overcome that opposition.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers have sponsored two companion bills, HB 1363 and SB 5352, which would return an officer’s ability to vehicularly pursue a suspect on “reasonable suspicion,” rather than “probable cause.” The bill also adds further clarification on procedures officers must take during a pursuit in order to end the chase as soon and safely as possible. HB 1363 has been referred to the Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee, while SB 5352 has been referred to the Law & Justice Committee. They are chaired by Rep. Roger Goodman and Sen. Manka Dhingra, respectively.
Make Your Voice Heard!
These bills are sensible, reasonable, and most importantly equips officers with the legal tools they need to enforce the law in manner that does not jeopardize the wellbeing of others. They also strip criminals of opportunities to commit crimes and avoid capture and arrest.
Moreover, these are not radical proposals, but simply take us back to normalcy when it comes to public safety laws.
The past two years have served as a failed experiment for police reform measures shaped by fringe ideology, not reality. There’s no question the increased crime since 2020 has been heavily driven by recent state laws that have handicapped police from carrying out their roles. The price has been public safety in many parts of the state, not to mention damage to life and property.
However, the sooner we correct the mistake the sooner we can remedy the situation.
This is why it’s important that committee chairs give these bills public hearings so they can hear from those negatively impacted by current law, and then schedule a vote in order to advance them.
At the same time, it’s imperative above all that the bills’ language not be watered down as they progress. Simply passing a bill with a nice sounding title but toothless provisions won’t cut it.
It’s time to roll back the crazy.