Police Pursuit Reform Bill Skids Off the Road in Washington State House


Majority Democrats in the Washington State House of Representatives on Tuesday refused to allow full debate and a floor vote on bipartisan legislation concerning vehicular pursuits by police.

Substitute House Bill 1363 would allow officers to pursue if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person in the vehicle has committed a violent crime, a sex offense, vehicular assault, domestic violence, an escape, or is driving under the influence.

Police pursuits have been a hot topic in the Legislature in the aftermath of House Bill 1054, enacted in 2021, which upped the threshold for engaging in vehicle chases to probable cause from reasonable suspicion. Since HB 1054 went into effect nearly two years ago, there has been a marked increase in auto thefts and drivers refusing to stop for police.

On Tuesday morning, John Handy, communications director for the House Republican Caucus, sent out an email saying House Republicans would make a motion to bring SHB 1363 to the floor for immediate consideration.

“The bill, which has 20 Democratic sponsors and 20 Republican sponsors, is currently in the House Rules Committee,” he wrote.

Republican efforts to move the bill went nowhere.

“Through a procedural motion on the House floor today, I asked the Speaker of the House to bring House Bill 1363 relating to law enforcement vehicular pursuits to the House floor for a full debate and vote,” Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Sumner, said in a news release. “Unfortunately, my motion was denied, and the Legislature will not act on this vital policy this session. It is frustrating and disappointing that public safety is not a higher priority.”

The original House Bill 1363 would have allowed pursuits for any crimes, assuming an officer had reasonable suspicion.

“We thought we were at least taking one step forward when the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry and Transportation Committees passed a modified version of the bill only allowing certain circumstances where the reasonable suspicion standard could be used,” Roberts observed.

He continued, “Today, we took two huge steps backward as the Legislature continues to send the message to criminals that they can do whatever they want with no consequence for their actions.”

Over in the other legislative chamber, Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, who chairs the Senate Law & Justice Committee, had refused to hear proposed changes to the police pursuit law.

The deputy majority leader of the Senate said she is not convinced the current police pursuit policy has resulted in an increase in crime and threw her support behind Senate Bill 5533 that would keep the current police pursuit restrictions in place and give the Criminal Justice Training Commission until the end of October 2024 to study the issue and propose model legislation.

SB 5533 died in committee.

A rally in support of passing SHB 1363 out of the Legislature is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Wednesday at the Capitol steps on the state Supreme Court building side.

Wednesday is the final hard deadline for passing bills out of their chamber of origin.