Washington governor rolls back limitations on police chases

May 3, 2023, 3:39 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — With the stroke of a pen Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee rolled back some requirements for police to chase people in vehicles, a partial reversal of a controversial pursuit policy first enacted in the state at the height of racial injustice protests following George Floyd’s murder.

Under the new law, police no longer need probable cause to initiate a pursuit. Instead, reasonable suspicion that a person inside a vehicle has committed or is committing a crime would be enough to give chase.

The bill reflects a call for a return to more flexibility for law enforcement after Washington lawmakers passed an array of reforms to reduce violence and death in police response, covering everything from background checks officers undergo before they’re hired to the circumstances under which they can pursue vehicles.

“Sometimes the pendulum swings too fast,” said John Bandler, a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The criminal justice system is not a well-oiled wheel, and rapid changes aren’t the best for efficiencies. You have to retrain people. You have to recalibrate.”

Historically in the state, police have been authorized to use force to briefly detain someone if they have reasonable suspicion — a commonsense notion based on specific facts — that someone might be involved in a crime. Probable cause, however, is based on evidence that the person committed the crime and is considered a higher standard.

The shift from allowing suspicion to justify pursuit to requiring proof was controversial.

Those seeking greater police accountability contended a decline in high-speed chases made communities safer with fewer innocent bystanders being injured or killed. Crashes during law enforcement pursuits killed more than 7,000 people nationwide between 1996 and 2015, or 355 annually on average, according to the last comprehensive report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics on the issue. Nearly 30% of the people killed were in vehicles not involved in pursuits, 4% were bystanders, 65% were suspects and 1% were officers.

Some law enforcement and city officials argued that limiting the ability of officers to initiate a pursuit impedes police investigations and emboldens suspected criminals to flee crime scenes before authorities can question them. A study in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin in 2010 said some officers can’t stomach allowing a suspect to drive off, even if it’s the safer option.

Under the new Washington law, pursuit can be undertaken for suspicion of a limited set of crimes: a violent offense, a sex offense, domestic violence-related offenses, driving under the influence of alcohol or trying to escape arrest. Vehicular pursuits, however, must be limited to situations where the chase subject poses serious harm to others.

Democratic Sen. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, a former state trooper and Snohomish County sheriff who sponsored the Washington bill, said the back-and-forth over pursuit policy represents a balancing act that is common in the shaping of law.

Adjustments over time, he said, are needed on the path to effective policing policy.

“I don’t think we went overboard,” Lovick said. “It brings it back to center. It gives officers the tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability.”

United States News

Associated Press

Appeals court leaves temporary hold on New Jersey’s county line primary ballot design in place

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday affirmed a lower court’s decision to order New Jersey Democrats scrap a ballot design widely viewed as helping candidates with establishment backing. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals considered a slimmed-down appeal brought by the Camden County Democrats after the county clerks — the officials charged […]

37 minutes ago

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas arrives to testify before a Senate subcommittee o...

Associated Press

Senate dismisses two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security secretary, ends trial

The Senate dismissed impeachment charges against Alejandro Mayorkas, ending House Republicans' bid to remove the Homeland Security secretary.

47 minutes ago

Associated Press

Tip leads to arrest in cold case killing of off-duty DC police officer in Baltimore

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore prosecutors on Wednesday announced the arrest of a man in the cold case homicide of an off-duty Washington, D.C., police officer in 2017. The officer, Sgt. Tony Anthony Mason Jr., was shot to death while sitting in a parked car with a woman he had been dating, according to police. She […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Report of gunshot prompts lockdown at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Security officers were conducting a door-to-door sweep Wednesday at a North Dakota Air Force base after a report of a gunshot prompted a lockdown. The Grand Forks Air Force Base said in a social media post that security at the base received a report of a single gunshot near the […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

OJ Simpson has been cremated, estate attorney in Las Vegas says. No public memorial is planned

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former football star and celebrity criminal defendant O.J. Simpson was cremated Wednesday, the lawyer handling his estate said following his death last week at home in Las Vegas at age 76. Attorney Malcolm LaVergne told The Associated Press he was present, along with unspecified other people, for the morning event at […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Kentucky lawmaker says he wants to renew efforts targeting DEI initiatives on college campuses

A Republican lawmaker has signaled plans to mount another effort to limit diversity, equity and inclusion practices at Kentucky’s public universities after GOP supermajorities failed to resolve differences on the issue during the recently ended legislative session. Kentucky lawmakers will convene again in January, and state Sen. Mike Wilson said he hopes lawmakers use the […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Washington governor rolls back limitations on police chases