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The Impact – Debating Vehicle Pursuit Regulations

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

Enacted in 2021, House Bill 1054 created new restrictions on a number of police tactics and raised the threshold for allowing law enforcement officers to engage in vehicle pursuits.

Critics of the change argue that it has emboldened criminals to flee from police, allowed dangerous suspects to remain on the streets, and contributed to an increase in auto theft.

Advocates of the tougher standard say high-speed chases that result in fatalities frequently involve innocent bystanders or passengers and argue that higher threshold set in 2021 is already saving lives.

House Bill 1363 would change the standard to allow officers to engage pursuits if they have reasonable suspicion that a person in a vehicle has committed or is committing any crime. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Alicia Rule (D-Blaine) and Rep. Eric Robertson (R-Sumner) and has 38 co-sponsors from both parties.  

House Bill 1586 would create a task force within the state Criminal Justice Training Center to develop a model pursuit policy and establish a grant program for vehicle pursuit management technology.

That bill is sponsored by the Chair of the Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee, Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland). Senate Bill 5533, sponsored by Sen. John Lovick (D-Lake Stevens), is similar to HB 1586.

This week Rep. Goodman and Rep. Robertson weigh in on different aspects of the vehicle pursuit policy debate.

“Since the enactment of the vehicle pursuit restrictions we’ve seen a significant reduction in deaths particularly bystanders,” said Goodman.

“You see the dash cam and the body cam of law enforcement officers attempting to stop criminals in the midst of a criminal act and they drive away. They’re driving up over curbs and speeding away, causing great danger on the other end,” said Robertson.

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