‘If you flee, we will pursue you:’ Washington police respond to new law

Jun 10, 2024, 2:27 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2024, 12:05 pm

Photo: A new Washington police pursuit law went into effect on Thursday....

A new Washington police pursuit law went into effect on Thursday. (Photo courtesy KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy KIRO 7)

A new Washington police pursuit law is in effect. Officers can now chase someone if there is “reasonable suspicion a person has violated the law,” according to Initiative 2113. The initiative was signed on March 4 and went into effect on Thursday.

The new law is an amendment to RCW 10.116.060 which restricted an officer from pursuing a suspect unless they fell under a specific guideline, listed here. RCW 10.116.060 went into effect in 2021 and since then, community members and law enforcement called for change.

“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,” Amber Goldade, a Tacoma resident who lost her 12-year-old daughter after she was killed by a man driving a stolen truck in January 2022, said at a gathering for Initiative 2113 last December.

Goldade blamed the state’s former police pursuit law for the death of her child, claiming if police had been allowed to chase 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.”

Local crime: Multiple weekend Seattle shootings leave 1 dead, 3 injured

Other community members shared similar stories, leading lawmakers to pass Initiative 2113.

Agencies comment on police pursuit law

However, Meeghan Black, a spokesperson for the Renton Police Department (RPD) told KIRO Newsradio, via email, that just because officers can pursue doesn’t mean they always will.

“Many factors weigh into the decision to initiate or continue a pursuit. Public safety is the main factor balanced against the risk of further danger from the suspect,” she said.

Black also encouraged the public to continue reporting.

“We encourage the public to continue being good witnesses and help report criminal activity when observed. We at Renton PD appreciate the partnership we have with our community in policing,” she said.

Speaking to the criminals, Black warned that police now have the ability to better hold them accountable. The King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) echoed a similar sentiment.

KCSO Public Information Officer (PIO) Sergeant Eric White sent a statement to KIRO Newsradio:

“We continue to evaluate our pursuit policies, and any potential adjustments will be given careful consideration. We recognize the critical importance of striking a balance between holding people accountable for their actions and the well-being of the community. As with all policies and procedures mandated by the King County Sheriff’s Office, public safety is paramount.”

Washington officers to get new pursuit training

RPD and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) said officers will be trained with the new law in mind.

“We have added training and are working to add tools we have never had to our ‘tool bag’ to reduce danger and quickly end pursuits. We are looking to purchase different tools such as StarChase and The Grappler, both tools to track, or apprehend fleeing vehicles quickly and safely. Our priority is safety, and it is constantly considered during any pursuit,” TCSO told KIRO Newsradio via email.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) also noted new training. The office even created a committee in anticipation of the new law. The committee was tasked with assessing SCSO’s existing pursuit policy and coming up with adjustments.

Snohomish County Sheriff Susanna Johnson released a statement, writing in part:

“I’m pleased to share that the committee has completed their recommendations, and now with input from our Community Advisory Committee, the draft of the revised policy is currently in the review process which includes discussion and planning with agency leaders. Once that is completed, we will implement new training for all deputies to ensure our office is educated and well-prepared for the new policy to take effect.

We are committed to keeping our community members informed every step of the way and will share our updated pursuit policy once it is finalized.”

Other news: Bellevue Police Department has had enough with traffic fatalities

Law enforcement warns criminals

However, over in Thurston County, a spokesperson said deputies will chase those who run.

“If you flee, we will pursue you,” wrote TCSO.

The office then referenced Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders who wrote on his Facebook page, “If you run, you’ll be captured, and your car will be impounded regardless of whether or not it is still operational. The days of running because the law says you can are over. If you’re thinking about fleeing here, make sure the unit behind you doesn’t say ‘SHERIFF’ on the side of it.”

The Tacoma Police Department (TPD) had a slightly different view.

“The decision to initiate, continue and/or terminate a pursuit will be based on balancing the need to pursue the offender with ensuring the safety of the public. Pursuits are a part of policing, however, if there are alternatives we can consider in apprehending a suspect that will keep the offender, officers and the public safe, we will evaluate them and make the best choice available,” TPD PIO Detective William Muse told KIRO Newsradio via email.

However, similar to TCSO, Tacoma police are looking into using StarChase, with the goal of keeping the public safe. StarChase uses a GPS to track vehicles, giving an alternative to following with a police car.

Therefore, Muse said TPD’s ultimate goal is to make Tacoma safer.

“Our message is simple: We want Tacoma to be the safest city in the country. We will use every resource available to hold people who violate laws accountable,” he stated.

Contributing: Charlie Harger and Kate Stone, KIRO Newsradio

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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‘If you flee, we will pursue you:’ Washington police respond to new law