A new bill Gov. Jay Inslee just signed changes when law enforcement can chase criminals. It gives more latitude to police on when they can initiate a pursuit. Now, police don’t need probable cause of a violent crime to chase a criminal – just reasonable suspicion.
“I believe this is a step forward, a reasonable measure and balance, to ensure public safety.” ~Governor Jay Inslee.
The new law went into effect immediately after the signing. Law enforcement officials need “reasonable suspicion” for violent and sexual crimes, DUI, domestic violence, and vehicular assault. The previous law, passed in 2021, required law enforcement to have “probable cause” – or hard evidence – of violent and sexual crimes, and DUI.
“With the laws that they put in place before, I could not chase that red car without probable cause, which means I need a license plate, a really specific description of the driver, or something on the vehicle that stands out that says this is the vehicle that committed that crime.” ~Sgt. Darren Moss of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
Lawmakers opposed to that say pursuits are just too dangerous for the public to warrant a chase when no one has been hurt.
“Limit police vehicle pursuits to the most serious crimes. Those crimes that don’t involve injury to person can be solved in other manners,” said Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) during session on March 28.
Inslee acknowledged Wednesday that many law enforcement groups are hoping for more changes in the future. He compared the police pursuit problem to climbing Mount Everest at the bill signing, saying it needs to be addressed step by step.