SHB 1363 would allow officers to go after suspects if there is reasonable suspicion of the following: a violent crime, sex offense, vehicular assault, domestic violence, escape, or driving under the influence
The Center Square Washington
Legislation recently passed out of a House committee to loosen restrictions on police pursuits in Washington state has drawn tepid support from some Republicans.
Substitute House Bill 1363 would allow officers to go after suspects if there is reasonable suspicion of the following: a violent crime, sex offense, vehicular assault, domestic violence, escape, or driving under the influence. The original House Bill 1363 would have allowed pursuits for any crimes, assuming an officer had reasonable suspicion.
SHB 1363 would change existing law, passed in 2021, that only allows for the pursuit of DUI suspects with a reasonable suspicion standard, and only allows pursuits with probable cause for violent crimes, sexual offenses, and escapes.
Since the new standard has been in effect, there has been a marked increase in auto thefts and drivers refusing to stop for police.
On Thursday morning, SHB 1363 was given a do-pass recommendation by the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee.
“We took a small step in the right direction today to unhandcuff our law enforcement officers and their abilities to keep our communities safe by moving to reenact the reasonable suspicion standard,” said Rep. Eric Robertson, R-Sumner, in a same-day news release.
He expressed disappointment over an amendment to the bill to make the legislative fix sunset on July 1, 2025, meaning in the absence of a future solution the law would go back to what it is right now.
“I’m afraid I also have to disagree with the sunset clause to allow the reasonable suspicion standard to expire in July 2025,” Robertson said. “There is still work to be done, but I’m hopeful it will improve as this bill moves through the process. Law enforcement professionals depend on reasonable suspicion discretion in split-second decisions. It’s time to keep our momentum forward-focused. Our law enforcement officers deserve that.”
Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, ranking Republican on the committee, had a similar reaction.
“But the bill, as passed by the committee, is much better than the existing law,” the lawmaker from Goldendale said in the same news release. “It would give officers the ability to pursue under reasonable suspicion of a violent offense, sex offense, assault involving domestic violence, an escape, or driving under the influence.”
She continued, “We hope that as this legislation moves forward, we can work together in a bipartisan manner to make it a much better and more effective bill – one that creates balance to protect the community and allow law enforcement to continue to do their job.”
Republican leaders in the Senate – where the bill faces an uncertain future – were cautiously optimistic by the House committee’s approval of SHB 1363, but remained concerned the legislation doesn’t go far enough in restoring officers’ ability to chase down suspected motor vehicle thieves.
Sens. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, and John Braun, R-Centralia, both expressed reservations related to auto theft in another same-day news release.
“What came out of the House committee this morning is closer to the current restrictions, and I’m disappointed that it deliberately preserves the hands-off approach to suspected car thieves,” said Padden, Republican leader on the Senate Law & Justice Committee.
The impact of a stolen motor vehicle on the victim should not be underestimated, Senate Republican Leader Braun noted.
“Senate Republicans have been clear about wanting to reestablish public safety and deal with the lawlessness in our communities,” he said. “We recognize that having a car stolen can be as life-changing as a violent crime, especially for a single mom who loses her job because she can no longer get to work.”
This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.
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