The Washington State Patrol is frustrated with the State of Washington’s relatively new law heavily restricting when police officers can engage in a pursuit. The State Patrol is also reporting nearly one thousand incidents of drivers refusing to stop for state troopers, but fatalities caused by pursuits have dropped significantly. Law enforcement agencies across Washington are now attempting to get this law amended.
Washington’s state police force sent a video montage to KOMO News in Seattle of the worst failure-to-yield incidents. The footage included suspects primarily accelerating on highways well above the speed limit and weaving through traffic to leave patrol cars. The State Patrol claims it’s a massive increase in failures-to-yield despite the fact the statistic wasn’t recorded before this year. It is a blatant attempt to sway public opinion on the matter despite there being only a single chase fatality since the law was introduced in June 2021. Eleven people died in Washington police chases between June 2020 and June 2021.
HB 1054, the law in question, requires that the situation meet one of two criteria before an officer can initiate a vehicular pursuit:
- “There is probable cause to believe that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense or sex offense.”
- “There is reasonable suspicion a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a driving under the influence offense.”
Enoka Herat, Police Practices and Immigration counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union told KOMO, “These vehicle pursuits are inherently dangerous, and they put all our lives at risk. If a pursuit came through here, we could be a victim of that.” The risk isn’t a hypothetical. Last year, I wrote about a wholly unnecessary pursuit in Colorado that killed two innocent people. The suspect ran a stop sign and hit a car, killing a 21-year-old cancer survivor passenger. Then, the suspect struck and killed a pedestrian walking on a sidewalk.
Honestly, I’d be appalled if my local police department informed me that multiple bystanders were killed in the pursuit that led to the recovery of a car stolen from me. There is no way anyone could convince me that my property is worth more than an innocent person’s life. There are various methods for catching fleeing suspects without a chase, like GPS tracking, helicopter tailing or mass alert texts.