Restore “Reasonable Suspicion” for Police Pursuit
During the 2021 session, Democratic majorities changed a state law to limit the ability of officers to do vehicle pursuits of suspects. Before this change in the law, officers only needed “reasonable suspicion” to initiate a vehicle pursuit of a suspect. Under the 2021 law, most vehicle pursuits are only allowed based on “probable cause.”
The new law has forced officers to watch criminals drive away. It also has emboldened criminals to commit other crimes like auto theft and retail theft. Many people throughout Washington have been victimized. Over the past two years, our state has been shaken by an auto-theft crisis.
According to the Washington State Patrol, between 2014 and 2020 an average of 1,200 suspects per year fled from police. In 2022, after the pursuit standard was changed to probable cause, 3,100 suspects fled — an increase of more than 150%. Before the change in this law, the statewide record for stolen cars in a single year was 30,000. That record increased to nearly 47,000 stolen vehicles in 2022.
Washington is fourth in the U.S. for auto thefts per capita.
During the 2023 legislative session, the Legislature approved Senate Bill 5352, which allows law-enforcement officers to engage in vehicle pursuits in more situations than Washington law has allowed since 2021.
The 2023 law limits vehicle pursuits to situations where the subject of the pursuit poses a serious risk of harm to others, as opposed to an “imminent threat” to the safety of others. SB 5352 allows a vehicle pursuit if there is reasonable suspicion, but only for suspicion of violent offenses, sex offenses, vehicular assault offenses, assault in the first-to-fourth degree involving domestic violence, an escape offense, or a driving-under-the-influence offense.
Many SB 5352 opponents have argued it still doesn’t go far enough to allow law-enforcement officers to pursue car thieves and the reckless drivers who have benefited from the restrictions put on pursuits by the majority Democrats in 2021.
Initiative 2113 was filed out of public frustration with the Democrat-led Legislature for passing the 2021 law that severely weakened officers’ ability to pursue suspects, which is a key reason for the increase of crime in Washington. People are sick and tired of rising crime and police officers not being allowed to do their job to pursue and arrest suspects.
I-2113 would return the standard for vehicular pursuit to “reasonable suspicion,” which would give law enforcement more discretion in the field on when to pursue a suspect. Republicans support this initiative and call for majority Democrats to allow a hearing on I-2113.
Police Discretion & Local Control
Local law enforcement must have the discretion to respond to threats in their community. Restoring the standard for vehicular pursuit to “reasonable suspicion” places the public trust in the professional knowledge, experience and judgment of local law enforcement. Two p.m. in downtown Seattle is different than 2 a.m. in Omak. Allow those who are charged with our safety to do their jobs.
LAW ENFORCEMENT MUST BE TRUSTED TO USE TRAINED DISCRETION
“Officer discretion is a useful and necessary part of an officer’s ability to do their job, as police officers must often make quick, in-the-moment decisions that cannot wait for specific laws to be consulted or reviewed. This does not mean that police officers can make unlawful decisions, but rather that they must use their knowledge of what is lawful and reasonable and what is unlawful and unreasonable to make appropriate decisions in stressful circumstances.”
In the News
I think the word is out that if you want to commit a crime in the state, do it in a stolen car because you can’t be pursued.
“The truth is that there is data, but it shows that the no-pursuit law has made Washington less safe. The data they used to pass this law have been debunked but the law still hasn’t been changed. I wish people would just look beyond party lines to see and hear us as people. I know it takes bravery, but that’s how you keep people safe.”
Sen. John Braun talks about drug possession and police pursuit
2023 "Fix" for Vehicular Pursuit Didn't Go Far Enough
The false claim that the Democrat’s vehicular pursuit law isn’t leading to more crime
Call to Action
Tell the Senate Democrat majority leader to grant I-2113 and the other five initiatives a hearing
Tell the Senate Democrat majority leader to allow legislators to do their constitutional and moral duty.
Grant a hearing to I-2113 and the other five initiatives before the Legislature.