No Change to Washington State Police Pursuit Law
One of the most debated topics in this year's legislative session has been changing the police pursuit laws in Washington State that were passed in 2021.
It has been tossed like a hot potato since session opened. The first salvo after bills to restore the ability for police to pursue were filed in each chamber, was from 45th District Sen. Manka Dhingra D-Seattle, Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, who said she would not bring Senate Bill 5352 (SB 5352) up for a public hearing. The bill has bipartisan support.
The companion version, House Bill 1363 (HB 1363), did get a public hearing and a substitute house bill (SHB 1353) was passed out of the House Committee on Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry on February 16th.
The bill then received a public hearing in the House Committee on Transportation where executive action was taken February 23rd and was referred to a Rules 2 Review on February 24th. The bill was amended in the process to allow police pursuit on reasonable suspicion of five additional incidents that were previously prohibited:
- a violent offense
- a sex offense
- a vehicular assault offense
- an assault in the first, second, third, or fourth degree involving domestic violence
- an escape
- a D.U.I (previously allowed)
It looks as though the hope that a change to pursuit laws may advance out of the house in 2023 was misplaced. 31st District Rep. Eric Robertson R-Sumner requested that the bill be brought to the house floor for a vote. This was part of the statement Rep. Robertson gave about the response to his request:
"Unfortunately, my motion was denied, and the Legislature will not act on this vital policy this session. It is frustrating and disappointing that public safety is not a higher priority."
The most pointed comment may have come from 8th District Rep. April Connors R-Kennewick:
"Last week in Sunnyside, two innocent little children were killed by a wrong-way drunk driver. State troopers wanted to pursue the driver and prevent this horrific tragedy but were prevented from doing so under current law. This is simply unacceptable."
It appears as though the police pursuit debate will continue without the legislature addressing it in the current session. The bills could be revived in the 2024 Legislative Session.