Ross: Legislature finally compromises on police pursuit bill

Apr 12, 2023, 7:27 AM | Updated: 4:15 pm

Photo: Washington State Patrol pulled over thousands of distracted drivers last year who are probab...

Washington State Patrol pulled over thousands of distracted drivers last year who are probably now facing higher insurance rates. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol)

(Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol)

The Legislature has finally compromised on giving police more flexibility to pursue a fleeing suspect.

And I think it’s important that members of both parties took political risks to get something done, even if it wasn’t perfect.

And for the members who are still worried that this is going to unleash Fast and Furious 11 – I want to bring back an interview from two months ago that ran on AM 770 KTTH with Redmond Police Chief Darrell Lowe who was among the critics of the current policy.

Redmond police using vehicle-mounted GPS tracking system to track down fleeing suspects

He wanted to point out that there’s new technology that makes it possible to pursue suspects WITHOUT a high-speed chase.

Chief Lowe outfitted his department with a system, made by a company in Virginia, called StarChase.

“StarChase is a GPS enabled technology, which allows an officer to tag a vehicle then back off,” explained Lowe. “We virtually monitor the speed direction location of the vehicle. When that vehicle comes to a stop, we are then able to safely approach and take the suspect into custody. Thus, I won’t say eliminating the need for pursuit, but minimizing pursuits.”

It’s true, the law does not allow an officer to engage in “vehicular pursuit” of a stolen car unless violence is involved.

But I don’t see anything that says an unmarked police car equipped with the StarChase system can’t calmly follow the stolen car, so that the officer can take aim and push the button that fires the sticky StarChase homing device that gloms onto the target vehicle and sends out its location and speed every three seconds to a computer map in the police cruiser!

It’s basically like an Apple tag, except with an infinite range. And even the ACLU says it’s legal!

And that kind of pursuit is a lot less dangerous, since as Chief Lowe says, the suspect isn’t trying to get away. All he sees is just another tailgater.

“So if they don’t see the police, then the hope is that they would, you know, not endanger the public,” said Lowe. “We would monitor it in that example that if it stopped at the mall and they got out – at that point we know where the vehicle is and then the decision would have to be made as to whether or not to recover the stolen vehicle or to surveil that big one until such time that the person comes back.”

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So, with a revised pursuit law that gives police more flexibility, and with this tagging technology that traps the crook without a car chase, all we need is for more police departments to do what Redmond did – start tagging those cars, and spread the word.

“If the crooks learn about it then yes, this is a tool that the Redmond Police Department has available. So the moral of the story is, don’t come to Redmond and commit crime.”

And if any car thieves happen to be listening, why not consider another line of work? Before you become a blue dot on a police computer.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Legislature finally compromises on police pursuit bill