OLYMPIA, Wash. — The bill to give police in Washington state the authority to chase after more suspects has the endorsement of Governor Jay Inslee.
“I think we need to move this needle. I think that’s where the public is. That’s where I am,” said Inslee. “I hope the House will carefully consider it, and pass it.”
Senate Bill 5352 would expand the list of crimes that could result in police pursuits.
It passed out of the Senate only hours before a cutoff deadline on March 8.
Under a law passed in 2021, police can only chase after suspects in sexual or violent crimes or escapees, and only with probable cause a crime had been committed.
Pursuits were also allowed under that legislation for drunk driving suspects based on an officer’s reasonable suspicion, a lower threshold than probable cause.
The 2023 proposal would allow pursuits for reasonable suspicion for the existing crimes as well as vehicular assault and domestic violence.
Police organizations opposed that 2021 law and have been calling for reforms ever since.
Steve Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said he was thankful the bill survived the cutoff deadline.
He said expanding the list of crimes that can trigger pursuits with reasonable suspicion “is a big deal.”
Strachan said his members would have liked to have seen crimes like burglary and car theft on that list.
“We need to send a message to criminals they don’t have the upper hand,” said Strachan.
In a statement released by the Washington Fraternal Order of Police, the organization said it appreciated the bill’s passing Wednesday.
“Engrossed Senate Bill 5352 would provide key improvements to the current pursuit law and gives peace officers the tools they need to pursue offenders,” said Marco Monteblanco, president of the Washington Fraternal Order of Police.
The bill now heads to the house for consideration.
A similar bill passed out of committee, but failed to come to the house floor for a vote.
Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) said the debate will continue.
She said members are trying to find a balance with the law.
”Wanting to make sure the police have the tools to do their job at the same time making sure innocent people aren’t killed by dangerous, high-speed chases,” said Jinkins.