Urge lawmakers to act on bipartisan pursuit bills
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Olympia are proposing common sense changes to the disastrous police pursuit policy passed in 2021. If you value public safety and the rule of law, take a few minutes today to urge legislative leaders to get onboard.
This week, a handful of legislators dropped matching bills in the House and Senate that would give law enforcement officers more discretion to determine whether pursuing a vehicle is in the best interest of public safety.
You can read House Bill 1363 here.
You can read Senate Bill 5352 here.
The proposals would revert aspects of the police pursuit law back to how it was pre-2021, no longer limiting the type of crime a suspect must have committed to warrant a chase.
The law passed in 2021 read as follows:
“A peace officer may not engage in a vehicular pursuit, unless there is probable cause to believe that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense or sex offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, or an escape under chapter 9A.76 11 RCW; or there is reasonable suspicion a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a driving under the influence offense 14 under RCW 46.61.502 (AND) The pursuit is necessary for the purpose of identifying or apprehending the person (AND) The person poses an imminent threat to the safety of others.”
The new bills propose changing the law to this:
“A peace officer may not conduct a vehicular pursuit, unless there is reasonable suspicion to believe that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a criminal offense and the safety risks of failing to apprehend or identify the person are considered to be greater than the safety risks of the vehicular pursuit under the circumstances.”
Not only is the proposed change far easier to understand, but it would allow law enforcement officers to use their judgement and training to determine what action is in the best interest of public safety.
Crucially, the change would also stop criminals from assuming they can drive off from a traffic stop without consequence.
“It’s happening three to five times a shift on some nights and then a couple times a week on day shift,” Sgt. Darren Wright, a Washington State Patrol spokesperson, said in May 2022, noting that individuals had fled from troopers more than 900 times in just the first few months of the year.
During an interview Friday, I asked Senator John Lovick (D-Mill Creek), co-sponsor of the bipartisan Senate bill this session, whether he would acknowledge that his party made a mistake in 2021.
“We can say that if we want to, if it pleases someone to say it’s an admission of a mistake,” he said. “I would prefer to say that we realize there were things that probably did not work out with the legislation and we’re going to correct those.”
The question is whether enough of his fellow Democrats feel the same way.
For the bipartisan bills to advance, they need the support of Democrats in charge of deciding whether they get a committee hearing.
Representative Eric Robertson (R- Sumner) is co-sponsor of the House bill. He said he is confident House Public Safety Committee Chair Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) will support efforts to fix the law.
“I know that (Goodman) is supportive of hearing the bill, that’s what he told me on the opening day of session. I’m hopeful this bipartisan bill will be just the right ingredient for him to help pass it out of committee,” he said.
“This is an important issue, and we hope that it’s viewed in that fashion.”
While the bipartisan proposals represent an important step toward correcting the errors of 2021, too much is at stake to leave it to chance.
So, what can you do? A few things:
First, please take a moment today to email Sen. Manka Dhingra, the chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, and Rep. Roger Goodman, the chair of the House Public Safety Committee. They decide whether these bills will move. Please keep your emails civil and let them know why it’s important to prioritize House Bill 1363 and Senate Bill 5352.
Second, contact the legislators in your district.
Lastly, share this with your friends and family in Washington state and ask them to do the same. Together, we can help restore law and order to our roadways.