Changes to Washington police pursuit rules narrowly passes Senate before deadline

A police pursuit bill that would loosen restrictions for chasing criminals has narrowly passed the Washington State Senate before the 5 p.m. deadline. 

Senate Bill 5352 passed 26-23 after the Rules Committee in the House refused to let it go to a vote. It's a companion bill to House Bill 1363.

House Bill 1363 aims to loosen current rules that restrict police pursuits to crimes involving violence, sex crimes and drunk drivers, but only when police have proof a crime occurred. However, after Tuesday's vote against adopting House Bill 1363, the proposal did not advance to the Floor calendar for a second reading.

The amendments from the Senate bill do not reverse the restrictions entirely, and they call for extra training and extra communication with local law enforcement during the chase to protect bystanders. 

"We cannot wait another two years for a policy or a fix to come out. We cannot wait that long," said State Senator Nikki Torres (R-15th District).

Wednesday's political wrangling took place against a backdrop of protests as supporters of the change allowing more crimes to be pursued at a lower standard of evidence crowded on to the Capitol steps.

"It really feels like if you’re obstructing a bill like this getting to the floor that has bipartisan support, you really have no regard for public safety," said Brett John, president of Tacoma Pierce County Safe.

"My 12-year-old daughter, Immaculee, and her best friend Kathleen are victims of the no-pursuit law," said Amber Goldade, whose daughter was killed during a hit-and-run in January 2022.

Goldade said Immaculee was walking home in Midland, hand-in-hand with her best friend, when a suspect in stolen truck hit the girls and drove away. Immaculee lost her life and her best friend suffered serious injuries.

"If the police were able to pursue him, he could have been caught and out back in jail, preventing him from harming innocent law-abiding citizens and not kill my daughter," said Goldade.

In a statement about the passage, the Washington Association of Sheriff's and Police Chiefs said: 

"Washington’s sheriffs and chiefs are thankful that the Washington State Senate has passed a measure to address the 2021 pursuit law.

Our legislators showed leadership and support for victims of crime.  There is more work to be done on this important issue in this session.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) will continue to work toward a solution that will be approved by the 2023 legislature and signed by Governor Jay Inslee.  This issue has strong bipartisan support."

The bill will now go to the House for a Justice Committee vote with a deadline of April 4. A version of SB 5352 already passed that committee, but with the new amendments tacked on in the Senate, the House will have to hear those and vote on the changes as well.