Guest Commentaries

Keeping our communities safe

Police pursuit reform bill gets bipartisan push
April 13, 2023 at 3:43 p.m.

By State Rep. Alicia Rule, Guest Writer

At the start of this year’s legislative session, I introduced HB 1363, which I did because I heard from several people in the community — citizens concerned about crime, those who had experienced crime firsthand, as well as from law enforcement — and so many of you told me you wanted to see changes made to our state’s pursuits policy.

While HB 1363 ultimately wasn’t heard on the House floor, that didn’t mean I had suddenly changed my mind on this issue. Quite the contrary. The Senate companion bill, SB 5352, was still a way to make a change to our state’s pursuits policy happen. I continued to work with my colleagues in both chambers and across the aisle and am pleased to report that it passed slightly after midnight on April 11 with a strong bipartisan vote of 57-40.

Right here at home, two of the biggest issues facing Whatcom County include rising crime and community safety. What I am witnessing at home is not the Whatcom County I know and love — and not the one I wanted to raise my own — let alone anybody else’s — kids in. My own boys are elementary- and middle-school-aged. I want them to grow up feeling safe, secure, shielded from harm’s way and loved. Perhaps I am a mama bear, but I want exactly this for anybody’s kids, not just my sons.

I knew that one way to stop rising crime was to restore Washington’s vehicle pursuits policy to give law enforcement the ability to pursue suspects on reasonable suspicion, rather than probable cause (as is the current law). SB 5352 is a good bill that is about balance, common sense and keeping people safe. The standard for law enforcement to pursue a potentially dangerous criminal is simply too high, particularly when that person can take off and drive away, often at a dangerously high rate of speed.

These dangerous people know that law enforcement can’t pursue them. It’s dangerous for the public and we need to find a better balance to keep the public safe. SB 5352 requires the officer to balance the risk of allowing the criminal to flee versus the risk to the community and the public as they assess their surroundings and make the decisions we’ve hired and mandated them to make.

This is a bill about balance between our state’s urban and rural areas. Our state is diverse and what happens in Seattle or Tacoma isn’t necessarily the right fit for a more rural place like Blaine, where I live. SB 5352 will allow local jurisdictions to have a wide variety of tools at their disposal.

I came to the Legislature in 2021 to speak up for our most vulnerable. Victims of crime are vulnerable, and this bill is necessary to keep people safe.

SB 5352 now heads back to the Senate for concurrence. If signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the bill will go into effect immediately due to an emergency clause. This year’s legislative session is slated to end April 23.

Alicia Rule is a state representative in the 42nd Legislative District, which includes Bellingham, Blaine, Lynden, Ferndale, and rural Whatcom County. A Democrat, Rule is Vice Chair of the Community and Economic Development Committee, and serves on the Children, Youth and Families and Capital Budget committees.

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