Washington law enforcement agencies push back on recent pursuit law

A video featuring police officers, sheriffs and mayors from Edmonds to Chelan is urging people to contact their state officials.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Last year’s passage of House Bill 1054 limits when police can pursue a suspect in a vehicle.

After the law went into effect, the police contacted suspected criminals, who then fled, knowing there was nothing the police could do. According to the authorities, this is an all too common occurrence.

“It’s frustrating for our officers,” said Erik Scairpon, Marysville Police Chief. “It’s also frustrating for the community.”

You can only prosecute someone when there is a probable cause to believe that the person is either impaired, is an escaped felon, or has committed a violent or sexual crime.

Law enforcement agencies from across Washington launched a public relations offensive that went against state law. The five-minute video was produced by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

In the video, Sheriff Adam Fortney voiced his concerns.

“Public safety decreases when criminals get bolder, knowing the police can’t pursue them to enforce the law,” Fortney said.

The video uses body camera footage showing suspects driving away from officers and sometimes clashing with innocent bystanders.

Chelan County was one of the first jurisdictions to be adversely affected by the new legislation.

There, the law prevented police from pursuing a suspect who stole a school bus. He later stole a front-end loader and smashed it into his own home.

The state of New Jersey repealed its prosecution law after noticing a spike in crime.

Chief Scairpon believes Washington’s law needs to be revised to give officers more discretion.

“If the risk of not arresting the perpetrator outweighs the risk of being tracked, the police should be able to track and apprehend that person,” Scairpon said.

The law’s original sponsor called the video a “scary advert.”

State Representative Jesse Johnson sees no need to change the law. Instead, Johnson wants to give police more tools, like drones, to more safely track anyone running from them.

“There’s no way it’s going to increase public safety to go back to the way things were before,” said Johnson, a Federal Way Democrat. “Our job is to save lives. In 2020 alone we had 18 deaths from police pursuits. It is the second leading cause of death from police violence. That’s down 55% last year because of the bill, so it’s doing what it was intended to do.”

From January through May 2021, the Washington State Patrol reported 934 incidents of “noncompliance” to a police officer, the first year it tracked this data.

A bill that would have given the police more discretion passed the state House of Representatives during the last legislative session, but it died in the Senate.

https://www.king5.com/article/news/crime/washington-law-enforcement-pursuit-law/281-b686c8f9-bbf2-444f-8ce0-5a63881688aa Washington law enforcement agencies push back on recent pursuit law

Alley Einstein

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