This week, Senate Bill 5352 passed with a vote of 26-22. This legislation would lower the requirements for police pursuits passed the Washington state Senate on Monday. In recent public statements, Governor Inslee indicated that he would approve the new law.
If signed, police may engage in a pursuit if they have “reasonable suspicion” a person has committed or is committing a violent or sexual crime. These crimes include Assault, DV cases, Vehicular Assault and DUI. Following the bill’s passage, law enforcement agencies have greater ability to pursue people during and immediately after a crime.
“It allows us to use our training, experience in judgement in making these difficult decisions in whether to pursue somebody or not . . . It allows us just those few extra tools to deal with these situations.” ~Marco Monteblanco, Washington State Fraternal Order of Police.
Under the current law, police can only chase a suspect when they have proof of a crime involving violence, a sex crime, or a DUI. As a result, law enforcement agencies argued that current restrictions give criminals confidence to flee and lead to more crime.
Opponents like State Representative Darya Farivar (D-Seattle) said police chases are too dangerous and do not always result in arrests.
“It’s a risk for absolutely everyone,” she said. “It’s everyone from the subject of the pursuit, to the passenger in the vehicle, to bystanders, to law enforcement.”
Rep. Farivar added that she also opposed the new legislation because she said minorities and underprivileged groups are often disproportionally targeted by police.
“It’s not just the individual who may or may not be at fault of something (to be impacted by police pursuits). There are a lot of people who can be hurt,” she said.
In 2021, Olympia legislators passed House Bill 1054, which barred high-speed pursuits except in very limited circumstances.
The law was included in a series of police reforms passed in response to the murder of George Floyd and other high-profile police killings. The reforms were aimed at addressing racial disproportionality in policing.
According to Washington State Patrol (WSP), before the change between 2014 and 2020, an average of 1,200 drivers per year fled from police. In 2022, after the change, 3,100 drivers fled from police, a spike of over 150%.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.