Sen. Braun criticizes Democrats on police pursuit reform


Republicans in the state Senate released a statement on Tuesday, Jan. 31, criticizing police reform legislation sponsored by Democrats on grounds the legislation was based on inaccurate data. According to state Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, legislation needs to be passed to improve Washington’s police-pursuit law after legislation passed by Democrats two years ago resulted in what he considers “a threat to public safety.”

Braun also criticized legislation sponsored by Democrats, Senate Bill 5533, which would create what he referred to as an “unelected state commission,” advocating instead for bipartisan legislation, such as Senate Bill 5352, that would provide more permissive legal grounds for police to engage in pursuits. 

“How many more people have been victimized because current law sends a permissive message to criminals? Senate Bill 5352, which would allow police to pursue a suspect based on reasonable suspicion would help correct this. Unfortunately, it’s more likely that Senate Bill 5533 will get a hearing because that bill would take the issue out of the hands of the Legislature and subject it to agency rulemaking by the Criminal Justice Training Commission. It would allow Democrats to avoid accountability by making it the CJTC’s problem. The Legislature should fix its own mistakes,” Braun said.

According to the Republican’s statement, data used by Democrats to advocate for their position has come under scrutiny by an independent review.

"If this analysis was submitted for peer-review, it would be summarily rejected as it does not satisfy threshold criteria for quantitative scientific work. The analysis should be disregarded in its entirety and should not be used to inform legislative decision-making," said Matthew Hickman, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, Criminology and Forensics at Seattle University. 

Braun further criticized state Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, the chair of the state Senate Law and Justice Committee, for refusing to give certain police pursuit reform bills hearings based on faulty data. Braun added there was data from the King County Sheriff’s Office showing the number of suspects who eluded police without pursuit had nearly tripled in King County from 2020 to 2022.

“At some point, you need to look at the hard numbers and let common sense be your guide. Those numbers show that the need for police pursuits is growing as the ability of law enforcement to pursue has been severely restricted. Common sense says that this is because criminals are emboldened by the current law, rather than deterred by it. Crime is increasing because, in the minds of criminals, they have a better chance of evading capture,” Braun said.