WA House Passes Police Pursuit Bill, Local Reps Divided On Vote
A police pursuit bill heads back to the Washington Senate after an amended version passed the House just after midnight Tuesday morning.
The controversial bill would allow police to chase suspects on a limited basis.
Democrats voting against the bill argued it goes too far, while Republicans voting the same way said the measure doesn't go far enough.
Senate Bill 5352 would lower the "probable cause" standard for police pursuits to "reasonable suspicion" in limited cases involving people suspected of committing a violent crime, a sex offense, domestic violence-related offenses, driving under the influence, and trying to escape arrest.
The bill passed 57 to 40 with lawmakers from both parties voting yes and no. It now returns to the Senate for further consideration.
Both 12th District Representatives, Republicans Mike Steele of Chelan and Keith Goehner of Dryden voted in favor of the bill. Both 7th District Representatives, Republicans Joel Kretz of Wauconda and Jacquelin Maycumber of Republic voted against the measure.
In an example of how Republicans were divided on the measure, Puyallup Representative Kelly Chambers said the measure is far short of what's needed for police pursuits.
"And this. . . this is the best we can come up with?" said Chambers. "This doesn't do enough. Not even close."
Meanwhile, Goldendale Representative Gina Mosbrucker voted for the bill, but only reluctantly.
"This is a step forward. It's a small step forward," said Mosbrucker. "It's too small of a step forward. But at the end of the day, our job is to keep moving forward until we get to something that people agree on."
The bill would also only require officers to notify a supervisor after engaging in a chase, instead of getting supervisory permission to begin a pursuit, as the law currently states.
That provision applied to jurisdictions with fewer than 10 officers but was amended in the House to include jurisdictions of fewer than 15 officers.
The amended version passed by the House also provides that the emergency vehicle operator training required for pursuing officers must include training on risk assessment analysis of whether a person being pursued poses a serious risk of harm to others.
The bill follows police reforms passed in 2021 in response to the 2020 police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other police killings.
The reforms were meant to reduce the potential for violence and death in police responses.
But raising the bar for initiating chases to having "probable cause" of a crime instead of just "reasonable suspicion" led to a backlash, as groups of police agencies complained that criminals simply fled crime scenes before they could be confronted.