Police may pursue suspects that pose long-term serious risk to others under revisions of a more restrictive 2022 vehicle chase law that has now passed both chambers of this year’s Legislature.
Engrossed Senate Bill 5352 was introduced by Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek.
“I’m a Black man from birth, my skin tone is brown, but I wore the blue uniform proudly for 31 years as a state trooper,” Lovick said. “I know there are fears out there, but I think legislation like this can bring our community together and help our law enforcement professionals do the job they are hired and they are trained to do.”
Under current law, an officer can violate certain rules of the road when involved in a vehicular pursuit, like speed limits, but an officer can only engage in a vehicular pursuit in certain circumstances.
These incidents include if there is probable reason to believe a person has committed a violent, sexual or driving under the influence offense, if the person poses a threat to the safety of others or if the risks of not identifying the person are greater than the risk of identifying them. An officer also is required to receive authorization from their supervisor before engaging in a vehicular pursuit and there must be supervisory control during the pursuit.
Rather than receiving permission from a supervisor to begin a pursuit, an officer would need to notify a supervisor about the pursuit under the bill. Both the officer and supervisor would need to come up with a plan to end the pursuit as well.
The bill passed the Senate 26-23 and the House 57-40. After going through the House, the bill was amended to require an officer to have completed an emergency vehicle operator’s course to engage in a pursuit. The Senate has now agreed to the House changes, sending the bill to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for his signature.
Rep. Kelly Chambers, R-Puyallyup, said vehicle pursuits have been the most-talked about issue for the past two years since the Legislature passed what she called a no-pursuit policy.
Families expect members of the Legislature to protect them and ESB 5352 does not do enough to protect children across the state, Chambers said.
“Many things that are covered in this bill, law enforcement can already do,” she said. “Until we address stolen vehicles and property crimes, Washington will be a less safe place to live.”
Lovick said some laws get passed out of hope and some laws get passed out of fear.
“I’m voting for hope,” he said. “I hope that this legislation will bring our community together. I hope that this legislation will strike a balance and give our fantastic police officers the tools they need to do their job to the best of their ability.”
The law will take effect immediately with the governor’s signature.
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