After the state House of Representatives refused to move on police pursuit reform by the Wednesday cutoff to get a bill out of its chamber of origin, effectively dooming its chances, the Senate acted on legislation that had been bottled up in committee and thus believed dead.
The state Senate surprised many observers by opting to relieve the Law and Justice Committee of further consideration of Senate Bill 5352 Wednesday and passing it by a narrow vote of 26-23.
Several amendments offered by Republicans were defeated. One amendment offered by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, the chair of the committee who had kept the bill bottled up, was adopted.
The amendment’s stated effects say that the bill now:
• Modifies the evidentiary threshold required for engaging in a vehicular pursuit by allowing an officer to conduct the vehicular pursuit if the officer has reasonable suspicion that a person has or is committing specified crimes.
• Limits vehicular pursuits to situations where the subject of the vehicular pursuit poses a serious risk of harm to others.
• Modifies certain vehicular pursuit requirements related to supervisory authorization and control, and establishes new requirements related to direct communication with specified entities, development of a plan to end the pursuit, and the pursuing officer’s training and certification.
• Provides an emergency clause.
Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, praised the Senate’s action. While admitting “This bill isn’t perfect,” he called it “an important part of our public safety mission this year, along with reforming our drug possession laws, passing legislation on gun violence prevention, and a whole host of other good bills.”
Mullet said in a statement that he wants to “see it move through the rest of the process and get to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.”
Senate Republican Leader John Braun of Centralia ultimately voted against it, after pushing for police pursuit reform.
Braun had told The Center Square that he and fellow Republicans would push to amend the legislation to allow Washington police officers to chase car thieves, and they attempted to do just that.
One amendment whose stated effect would allow “an officer to engage in a vehicle pursuit if the officer has reasonable suspicion a person inside the vehicle has committed or is committing theft of a motor vehicle” was rejected.