Solan: ‘Cops can’t do their jobs right now in Seattle’ despite new police pursuit law
May 5, 2023, 2:21 PM
(Photo by Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law earlier this week that loosens restrictions on police pursuing criminals — changing the requirement of a pursuit to just reasonable suspicion instead of probable cause. This bill works specifically in cases involving violent offenses, sex offenses, vehicular assault, escapes, domestic violence assaults, and DUIs.
“I believe this is a step forward, a reasonable measure and balance, to ensure public safety,” Inslee said in a press conference during the signing of the bill signing.
The new law also requires any officer who’s involved in a pursuit to have completed numerous steps of training, including — for the Seattle Police Department (SPD) — the completion of an emergency vehicle operators course, have updated emergency vehicle operator training within the last two years, and be certified in at least one pursuit intervention. Each department across the state has different requirements for its police training, but training for these pursuits will be mandated.
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“The fact is, we’re out of compliance with the training. If we engage in a pursuit, we’re violating state law,” Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, told Jason Rantz on KTTH 770 AM. “So it’s a serious problem in terms of the public safety conversation that leads to the community being unsafe because we’re unprepared to deal with this law. And to me, I think there are some serious questions that need to be answered by the department in terms of why did this lapse, and our community is now in more of an unsafe predicament, and I think it’s an unsafe predicament for the officers as well.”
One pursuit intervention officers can be trained in is a precision immobilization technique (PIT) maneuver, a tactic in which a pursuing vehicle forces a fleeing vehicle to turn sideways abruptly, causing the driver to lose control and stop.
“But SPD wouldn’t generally use that method anyway, unless, I guess, for SWAT because that is something that is trained for those officers,” Rantz stated.
“And I actually agree with the training component. I’m a huge proponent of training,” Solan added. “And the better you’re trained in a profession, the better you’re going to be. But the problem is the department left a bunch of training lapse, and it’s kind of a perplexing situation. I think it’s embarrassing to not have the certification, if you will, to do your job effectively and safely.”
Before the legislative session ended in April, a police pursuit bill set to loosen restrictions for chasing criminals narrowly passed in the Washington state Senate before the 5 p.m. deadline with a vote of 26-23 despite its companion bill, House Bill 1363, failing to advance beyond the House floor. Republicans and Democrats voted both ways on the bill — with many arguing it was not about politics but rather about public safety.
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The last time the city had its emergency vehicle operations curriculum (EVOC) training was in 2020, but only a very small amount of officers participated, according to Solan. The last time there was a department-wide EVOC training was in 2018.
“We’re talking well over five years ago,” Solan said. “We’re out of compliance, and we can’t stop anybody from fleeing in the city of Seattle.”
Additionally, stop sticks and spike strips — two tools used to impede or stop the movement of wheeled vehicles by puncturing their tires — were taken out of circulation within the SPD in 2020.
“The training could take weeks. We could be unable to pursue crazy offenders that have done egregious criminal acts for several weeks until this is built in and has launched,” Solan said. “It’s a serious, serious problem that is something that just comes down to the basic fundamental of policing, where cops protect people and stop human beings from doing criminal acts. And right now, yes, we can chase people on foot. But we all know that the mode of transportation for criminals is, more often than not, in a vehicle. Cops can’t do their jobs right now in the city of Seattle.”
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