OLYMPIA, WA – A bill requiring police officer training on vehicular pursuits and modifying the list of offenses in which law enforcement is allowed to engage in high-speed chases received bipartisan support in the Senate today. Senate Bill 5352, sponsored by Senator John Lovick (D-Mill Creek), also changes the burden of proof for existing offenses, so police can pursue suspects where a reasonable suspicion standard is met.
The measure passed the Senate with 26 yea votes and 23 nays; it now goes to the House for consideration.
“I am proud to have found a solution to this issue and to have reached a level of bipartisan support but I want to be crystal clear — the goal is still to reach zero high-speed chases and find technological alternatives to a scenario that is dangerous for law enforcement, the community and the suspect.” according to Lovick, a 31-year veteran of the Washington State Patrol. “While they can serve as a necessary tool for community justice, our peace officers still have a duty to limit them to only the most serious situations.”
The amended bill adds vehicular assault and certain domestic violence offenses to the list of crimes for which police are authorized to pursue. The standard for vehicular pursuit for serious sex offenses is also lowered from probable cause to reasonable suspicion — the same standard used under the current law for drunken driving.
“I know how dangerous many of these high-speed chases can be,” Lovick said. “They are some of the worst situations our neighbors and officers can be in. It is my hope that we follow this bill with renewed calls to continue our work to build safer, healthier communities, as we know the issue extends far beyond the officer and chases.”
The Washington State Legislature passed a new law in 2021 restricting when law enforcement could pursue vehicles.
Earlier in the legislative session, Representative Eric Robertson (R-Sumner) said they have had two years of “experience” that have illuminated the fact that the new law is “broken.”
“This bill isn’t perfect, but it’s a big improvement over the status quo, and I want to see it move through the rest of the process and get to the governor’s desk to be signed into law,” Senator Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) says.
Also voting in favor of SB 5352 was Senator Ann Rivers (R-La Center). Watch her comments in the Senate today here.
Senate Republican Leader John Braun (R-Centralia) voted against the bill today. Watch the video explaining why here.