Initiative to ‘restore’ police pursuits in WA gains enough signatures for Nov. ballot

Dec 15, 2023, 1:00 PM | Updated: 1:32 pm

police pursuits WA...

Brian Heywood at a speaking event Thursday outside Dunn Lumber in Shoreline. (Photo: Kate Stone)

(Photo: Kate Stone)

Washington’s controversial police pursuit laws may be in the hands of voters as supporters of Initiative 2113, which concerns such pursuits, announced Thursday they have gathered enough signatures to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.

“Washingtonians are sick and tired of the crime wave that’s been coming because we hand-tied the police from being able to pursue criminals when they do things bad,” Hedge Fund Manager Brian Heywood said at a media event Thursday outside Dunn Lumber in Shoreline.

Heywood is the founder of the group “Let’s Go Washington” which is leading signature-gathering efforts for multiple initiatives in the coming year.

More on police pursuits in WA: New police pursuit bill signed by Gov. Inslee

I-2113 would amend the state’s current law and “restore the authority of a police officer to engage in a pursuit when there is reasonable suspicion a person has violated the law.”

Under the current law, an officer must have “reasonable suspicion” that a person has committed or is currently committing a crime. Even then, only certain situations qualify for pursuit, including someone accused of a violent or sex crime, vehicular assault, escape, DUI or domestic violence.

Amber Goldade, a resident of Tacoma, lost her 12-year-old daughter, Immaculee, after she was killed when struck by a man driving a stolen truck in Jan. 2022. Goldade attended Thursday’s event in support of the initiative.

“We have to stop this. We have to let the police be able to do their jobs, their oath that they swore that they would protect the community,” she said.

Goldade blamed the state’s police pursuit law for the death of her child, claiming if not for the current law, the man might have been detained earlier.

“Two weeks prior to the accident, he went and robbed a lawn service company [and] stole thousands of dollars’ worth of their work stuff,” she said. “The police had them when they were coming out of the business. But they knew that they didn’t have to stop.”

Mike Dunn said his lumber business is just one of many around the state suffering from what he believes is an increase in crime. He said the front doors of his Shoreline store were smashed in last month by thieves in a pickup truck.

More on police pursuits: Seattle Police’s union reacts to officer’s controversial comments captured on video

“[They hit] a spray paint display, spray paint everywhere, glass everywhere, material everywhere,” Dunn told KIRO Newsradio. “They jumped out, loaded $10,000 worth of material & power tools back into the van. They took off, clipped the police car [on the way out] and, of course, they just drive away.”

The original law was passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature in 2021, aimed at protecting Washingtonians from “dangerous, high-speed police pursuits” — the second-leading cause of death from police activities. State Sen. Manka Dhingra, a supporter of restrictions on police pursuits, spoke to KIRO Newsradio in March 2022, after the original law passed the legislature.

“The data that we have shows that when you have vehicle pursuits, half of the deaths that occur as a result of that are of innocent bystanders,” Dhingra said.

But after pushback, including from numerous law enforcement communities, the language of the law was amended in last year’s session to change the threshold for a chase from “probable cause” to “reasonable suspicion.”

But critics argue it did not go far enough.

“I believe that the local jurisdictions, the local sheriffs, the local police officers, and their dispatch, have the wisdom and should have the ability to make the call [on a chase], which they did before,” Heywood said.

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Let’s Go Washington said it submitted 410,518 signatures to the Washington Secretary of State’s Office. A little less than 325,000 verified signatures are needed to qualify for the 2024 general election ballot.

If confirmed, the measure would first go to lawmakers, who can choose to pass it as written, but cannot make changes to it. If the measure is rejected in the legislature or no action is taken, it would go to voters next November.

You can read more of Kate Stone’s stories here. Follow Kate on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here

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Initiative to ‘restore’ police pursuits in WA gains enough signatures for Nov. ballot