Federal Way Police Chief: ‘No-pursuit law makes communities less safe’

Feb 16, 2024, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:09 pm

federal way body...

Federal Way police officers responding to a crime. (Photo: Sam Campbell/KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Sam Campbell/KIRO Newsradio)

On the night of Feb. 10 into the morning of Feb. 11, 69 vehicles were broken into in Federal Way. It happened all over the city – on the street, at shopping centers, apartment complexes and even churches.

The suspects? Five juveniles in a reported stolen car.

Federal Way Police Chief Andy Hwang blamed Washington’s no-pursuit law which is actually a limited pursuit law. In 2021, Washington passed a law that limits when police can pursue suspects in vehicles. The law bans car chases for low-level crimes, such as theft. It also requires police to have probable cause to pursue suspects for violent and sex crimes.

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“Stealing a vehicle is a precursor to other crimes now,” Federal Way Police Chief Andy Hwang told KIRO Newsradio. “Organized retail theft, smash and grab burglaries, robberies, purse snatching, carjackings, homicides, and a spike in freeway shootings. These are all occurring because of the anti-police, anti-pursuit policy.”

A patrol officer located the suspect vehicle occupied by five individuals at a McDonald’s parking lot. As soon as the suspects saw the patrol vehicle, they sped away.

Even though the suspects had allegedly damaged 69 vehicles, the officer allowed the suspects to escape capture under the current pursuit law, which prevents officers from pursuing property crimes, including stolen vehicles.

“This is entirely unacceptable!” Hwang said.

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He is calling on lawmakers in Olympia to act now and change the law.

“This is the most critical public safety legislation for lawmakers this year,” Hwang said. “This should be their number one priority to change this law because it’s hurting a lot of communities in Washington state.”

Legislators instituted the law in 2021 over fears that high-speed pursuits could do more harm than good and endanger the lives of citizens, including innocent bystanders. Hwang sees things differently.

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“I’m talking with officers. I’m working with officers in the field,” he said. “They’re saying this is what we need to make a difference to keep our residents safe, and I think lawmakers should listen.”

You can read more of James Lynch’s stories here. Follow James on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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