Washington lawmakers pass initiative to roll back limits on police pursuits

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state lawmakers passed an initiative on Monday to fully roll back restrictions on police pursuits.

The legislature had previously approved restrictions in 2021, limiting pursuits to suspects in violent crimes, sex offenses, vehicular assaults, escapes from detention facilities, and driving under the influence.

“I don’t believe this will solve the problem that it seeks to, and I believe it will do more harm than good,” said Rep. Darya Farivar on the House floor Monday.

Farivar spoke against the initiative, saying high speed pursuits risk the public’s safety.

“Pursuits are inherently dangerous as we’ve already heard today. This is why we made this change in the first place. We understood that lives were being put at risk and lost when they didn’t need to,” Farivar said.

In the years since, police have spoken out frequently against the limits, claiming that they empowered criminals to evade law enforcement.

“I mean, immediately, brazen, brazen, criminal behavior, there was just a change in the, in the tone of everything that was occurring,” said Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders.

Sanders told KIRO 7 he saw the change in criminal response first hand.

“They don’t have to respect you, but they respect the consequence of committing a crime. And that just went completely out the window,” Sanders said.

Then at the start of 2024, Republican-backed Initiative 2113 gathered enough signatures to go in front of the legislature. Legislators also had the option to send the initiative to voters before ultimately deciding to pass it into law outright.

In practice, I-2113 allows pursuits as long as an officer has “reasonable suspicion” that someone has violated the law and “poses a threat to the safety of others.”

The initiative will go into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, for what Republicans in the state House are calling “a big win for community safety across our state.”

It’s a change that Sanders says will make a big difference in crimes that have skyrocketed, like smash and grab burglaries and stolen vehicle cases.

“We just created such a clear path forward. Steal the car, do whatever you want. Ditch the car when you’re done or total it, who cares? It’s not your car. There’s just so much mayhem that’s gone on in this state. So, I think we’re gonna get turned around,” Sanders said.

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