OLYMPIA—In 2021, the Washington Legislature passed a bill regulating police tactics and equipment. One of the provisions of the bill limited vehicle pursuits to instances where there is probable cause to believe that a violent or sexual crime has been committed or reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence. This greatly reduced the instances in which it is legal for police to pursue a suspect. Since then, police have noted an increase in the number of motorists simply driving away from traffic stops. There has also been a marked increase in motor vehicle theft. This increase concerned Rep. Rule and her constituents, so she introduced House Bill 1363 with Rep. Eric Robertson (R-Sumner).
“After meeting extensively with law enforcement, as well as with you, my constituents, it is clear to me that a change in our state’s pursuit laws is necessary,” said Rule. “Criminals know they can run and are taking advantage of well-intentioned reforms meant to curb unnecessary injuries and deaths from vehicle pursuits. I voted against this change in policy in 2021, and I believe it has not had the intended effects. We cannot let criminals have a free pass. A one-size-fits-all pursuit policy simply does not work for every community in our state, and this bill will allow police agencies to set their own pursuit policies.”
HB 1363 restores the initial threshold to begin a vehicle pursuit to reasonable suspicion that a crime has or is being committed while keeping the balancing tests and safeguards put into place by HB 1054.
“As a retired trooper with the Washington State Patrol, I’ve personally been involved in vehicle pursuits. I’ve made the decision to safely conduct a pursuit against someone violating the law, and I’ve also made the decision to end a pursuit out of safety concerns for myself, the traveling public, and our communities. Law enforcement professionals depend on this discretion in split-second decisions,” said Robertson. “I’m glad we’re finding common ground to correct current statute to allow troopers, deputies, and officers to engage in a vehicular pursuit if there is reasonable suspicion the person in the vehicle has or is committing a crime. Our law enforcement professionals need this discretionary tool put back into their toolbox.”
House Bill 1363 has been referred to the Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee, where it awaits a public hearing.