WA police agencies test new tech to make pursuits safer, more efficient

As Washington state prepares to relax its regulations on police pursuits, local law enforcement agencies are gearing up to roll out their own technological advancements meant to make high-speed chases safer for the public.

In anticipation of the changes, Thurston County Sheriff's Office is fortifying its patrol fleet with futuristic devices right out of a superhero's arsenal. Sheriff Derek Sanders announced plans to install "Grappler Police Bumpers" on ten patrol cars. These devices are designed to halt suspect vehicles effectively during chases.

Sanders likened their modern-day utility to that of the introduction of the police radio, telling FOX 13 Seattle, "In my opinion they all reduce risk substantially. If you can grab a hold of someone and hold on to them and they can’t flee anymore you’ve just ended the high liability risk to the public."

In conjunction with the Grappler, Thurston County sheriff's deputies will be armed with StarChase's GPS tracking darts, which can be fired at fleeing vehicles, significantly cutting down the time it takes officers to locate a pursued vehicle. 

Lynnwood Police have been using this technology for more than a year.

"With StarChase, it really gives us a great starting point for officers and detectives to locate the vehicle sometimes as quick as thirty minutes after deploying, before it sometimes would take two weeks or a month to locate those vehicles," said Marin McKay a spokesperson for the Lynnwood Police Department.

McKay stated that after using the tracker more than 60 times in 2023, the department has observed significant results. 

"Really I wanted to try both of them. And any other third parties as well, to see if there are better methods to capture people," said Sanders.

The combined cost of the StarChase GPS tracker and the Grappler Police Bumper mounts to tens of thousands of dollars. However, Sanders asserts this expenditure is minimal compared to the damage typically inflicted on patrol cars during pursuits. He believes that while the upcoming change in laws and the acquisition of new tech will facilitate their work, the pivotal transformation needs to arise from the community – hoping for a return to the days when people made better decisions and the state had fewer fatal collisions.

The Thurston County Sheriff's Office has purchased five StarChase GPS dart trackers and six Grappler Police Bumpers, with intentions to increase the latter number to ten. The department hopes to have the technology fully installed by the end of summer.


Police pursuits in WA resume June 6, deputies ready to enforce new law

Law enforcement officers in Washington state will soon have more leeway to pursue suspects when a new law goes into effect on Thursday.


Seattle's patience wearing thin with Miles Hudson, Belltown's Hellcat driver

Seattle Police tackle, arrest armed suspect fleeing on bike in bodycam video

Trader Joe's drops mini insulated tote bags, sparking shopper craze

Witness speaks out on Snohomish Co. deputies shooting her ex-boyfriend

Idaho bar goes viral after declaring 'Heterosexual Awesomeness Month

To get the best local news, weather and sports in Seattle for free, sign up for the daily FOX 13 Seattle newsletter.