Police pursuit bill moves out of committee with amendments

A police pursuit bill that would allow law enforcement to chase after suspects at a lower standard of evidence has moved forward and out of a house committee Tuesday evening. 

Senate Bill 5352 advanced after some amendments were approved and some withdrawn within the committee. 

At the end of the hearing, members of the House Committee on Community Safety, Justice & Reentry voted 7-2 to advance it.   

The committee went into executive session Tuesday evening for what a member called "two of the most consequential bills in the entire legislative session," with one being related to vehicle pursuits.  

After the session, members discussed briefly and voted to advance the "vehicular pursuit" bill which would lower the evidentiary threshold required for engaging in a pursuit from "probable cause" to "reasonable suspicion." 

It also expanded some of the crimes for which an officer may give chase: like for vehicular assault, assault and assault involving domestic violence. 

Amendments were also adopted, one of which requires training  

"This has to do that we want to be sure there is adequate training for law enforcement before they decide to pursue," said Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (R-14th Legislative District). "They do a safe balance test. The balance test says, ‘Is it safe for me to pursue, or not to pursue, that offender?’"   

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While most of the committee voted in favor of advancing the bill with approved amendments, two legislators voted "no" for very different reasons. Rep. Darya Farivar (D-Seattle) voted "nay", voicing concerns over people dying during police pursuits. 

"I certainly appreciate this legislation has been narrowed from where it starts. I’m still going to be a ‘no’ today.  I think that’s the right thing to do. I continue to hear from constituents and advocates that have deep concern about moving forward with this legislation," said Farivar.

Rep. Jenny Graham (R- Spokane) also voted "nay," saying the bill wasn't good enough. She says that those who aren't following the laws need to be held more accountable. 

"We’ve had children that have been killed because the police haven’t been able to pursue. It’s outrageous that our police could not pursue somebody who’s driving 111 mph or if someone is driving the wrong way down the highway. It is outrageous they would not be able to try to stop that person," said Graham.  

There were a number of amendments that were also "scoped", according to Graham.  If an amendment offered to a proposed bill does not relate closely to the content of the bill, a member may raise "scope and object." The president then rules if the amendment is "in order" or "out of order."  

Graham says some of those scoped amendments include: 

  • "Patt 160 & 176, were scoped but were not adopted, would have allowed police to pursue for hit-and-run, damaged, or stolen property & limited the definition of vehicular pursuit to when a siren was activated during pursuit."
  • "Patt 161, scoped, would have allowed police to call a supervisor to report in rural areas where there were problems with service. As it stands now, the police must get permission to pursue and can’t if there is no service to communicate beyond notifying supervisor."
  • "Patt 158, scoped, this one could’ve dealt with a kidnapping victim or possibly a child not being in a seatbelt. We were not allowed to debate this important issue."
  • "Patt 159, scoped, would have allowed police pursuit for stolen vehicles or property."

Graham says the full discussion on the amendments was not fully done in public view, which she said was a point of frustration for her.  

She says the bill will now go back to the Senate because of the amendments that were adopted, then it must come back to the House before it can head to the Governor.