Reps. Hutchins, Caldier vote no on totally inadequate pursuit bill, frustrated with passage

In a late-night debate Tuesday morning, the Washington State House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 5352 57-40 that would partially restore the ability for law enforcement to engage in vehicular pursuits – but only in very limited circumstances. The vote was split on both sides of the aisle.

“I am committed to doing what is necessary to give law enforcement the tools to keep our community safe. I have heard consistently from our law enforcement that the status quo is unacceptable. This bill did not come close to fixing the problem,” said Rep. Spencer Hutchins, R-Gig Harbor. “We needed to do better.”

“The failed policies we have passed to handcuff our law enforcement have resulted in the rise of crime across our state.  The public demanded a true fix to those laws, and it is our job to listen to them,” said Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Gig Harbor. “This bill was political window dressing and a slap in the face to the people we represent.”

“We have seen the damage from the existing policy over the past two years,” Hutchins said. “I have to say, this small step is just not good enough.”

Both lawmakers believe passage of the bill ultimately weakened their bargaining position.

“We settled for scraps,” said Caldier.

Caldier and Hutchins are also concerned the promises of some lawmakers to come back next year and fix the policy could be overly optimistic.

“I have no confidence that we will get anything better after accepting this bill,” said Hutchins.

“The full fix to the dangerous existing policy is needed now,” said Caldier.

Law enforcement in the 26th district also weighed in on the bill.

“The pending legislation surrounding police pursuits is not as comprehensive as we would have hoped to see. The crimes included in the list of ‘violent offenses’ for which pursuits may be authorized are far more limited than what may seem,” said Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey. “Missing from the list of crimes for which law enforcement would be allowed to pursue is residential burglary, hit and run with injuries, and assaulting a police officer, along with many more serious crimes.  Although we appreciate the work of our 26th District Representatives and Senator, there is more work to be done by the entire Legislature.  Our citizens largely expect us to maintain order and keep our communities safe.  In its present form, SB 5352 does very little to enhance that ability.”

“Legislation to address changes to the current police pursuit law is now reaching a critical point of action by the Legislature. What had been promising bills submitted and cosponsored with bipartisan support and support of local law enforcement and many elected officials and organizations, has now been changed and watered down to a version that may make very limited improvements. I do appreciate the work by those legislators working to make balanced changes to this law and provide law enforcement with the needed tools and the discretion to perform the work their communities expect of them. Some have held firm on their convictions while some have tried to compromise to get at least some improvements made,” said Kitsap County Sheriff John Gese.“Unfortunately, while the current proposed legislation adds very limited improvements to the criteria in which police may pursue, it leaves out one very important and critical element. This is the need to create a deterrent effect to all those who commit crimes such as reckless and aggressive driving, auto theft, burglary or many other felonies that would not be included when considering whether police could pursue a vehicle or not and will exploit the law. It doesn’t make sense that the law would allow police to pursue someone who may have had 3 to 4 drinks, but not the burglar that broke into your home while you were inside.  I urge our legislators to address needed improvements to this law and help law enforcement and our local communities.  I would hate to see those communities that I serve and the dedicated men and women who work in local law enforcement have to wait until next year for the needed legislative improvement when this is such an important and critical issue to address.” 

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs says under the existing version of the bill dozens of felony offenses will remain categorically ineligible for vehicular pursuit including when:

• A person is involved in a vehicular collision resulting in the death of another person and flees the scene [Hit and run – death]  

• A person enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling other than a vehicle with the intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein [Residential burglary]

• A person causes physical injury to another person due to his or her perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or mental, physical, or sensory disability [Hate crime]

• A person who steals a motor vehicle and as part of an organized auto theft ring [Taking a motor vehicle without permission 1]

• A person teaches or demonstrates to another person the use, application, or making of any device or technique capable of causing significant bodily injury or death to persons in furtherance of a civil disorder [Civil disorder training]

• A parent or guardian withholds the basic necessities of life to a child and causes great bodily harm [criminal mistreatment 1]

• A person maliciously uses an explosive device to destroy or damage a building, car, airplane, vessel, common carrier, railroad track, or public utility transmission system or structure [Malicious explosion of a substance 3]

• A person maliciously places an explosive device in, upon, under, against, or near any building, car, vessel, railroad track, airplane, public utility transmission system, or structure [Malicious placement of an explosive]

• An adult who assaults a child causing physical pain or agony that is equivalent to that produced by torture [assault of a child 2]

• Four or more persons who use or threaten to use deadly force against any other person [criminal mischief]

• A person unlawfully delivers a firearm to an ineligible person [delivery of firearms to ineligible person]

• Two or more persons assembling to commit criminal sabotage [Assemblages of saboteurs]

• A person brings a firearm or explosive into a state institution for the care and treatment of mental illness [Bringing narcotics, liquor, or weapons into state institution or grounds]

• A person who violates a domestic violence protection order, sexual assault protection order, stalking protection order, vulnerable adult protection order, restraining order, or foreign protection order

• A person who is involved in a vehicular collision resulting in injury to another person and flees the scene [Hit and run – injury]

• A person who organizes three or more persons with the intent to engage in a pattern of criminal activity or incites others to engage in violence with the intent to further the accomplishment of a pattern of criminal profiteering activity [Leading organized crime]

• A person in unlawful possession of a firearm after having been found guilty of a serious offense [Unlawful possession of a firearm 1]

• A person who steals a firearm or is in possession of a stolen firearm [Theft of a firearm]

• A person who intentionally and repeatedly harasses or follows another with the intent to frighten and creates a reasonable fear in the person being stalked [Stalking]

• A person who assaults a law enforcement officer with a projectile stun gun [Assault 3 of a Peace officer with a stun gun]

• A person who assaults a law enforcement officer [Assault 3]

• A person who operates a vessel in a reckless manner and causes serious bodily injury to another [Assault by watercraft]

• A person who knowingly or intentionally permits a dependent child or dependent adult to ingest, inhale, or have contact with methamphetamine [Endangerment with a controlled substance]

• An adult who assaults a child under the age of 13 by means of a weapon likely to produce bodily harm [Assault of a Child 3]

• A person who enters or remains unlawfully in a building other than a vehicle or dwelling with the intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein [Burglary 2]

• A person who assaults a community corrections officer performing their official duties [Custodial assault]

• A person who commits theft of property with a value of at least $5,000 from a mercantile establishment with an accomplice [Organized retail theft 1]

• A person who manufacturers or possesses an incendiary device [Possession of incendiary device]

• A person unlawfully manufactures, owns, buys, sells, loans, furnishes, transports, or possesses a machine gun, bump-fire stock, undetectable firearm, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle [Possession of machine gun, bump-fire stock, undetectable firearm, or short-barreled shotgun or rifle]

• A person knowingly or recklessly organizes, manages, or traffics the theft of property for sale to others [Trafficking in stolen property 1]

• A person who knowingly and unlawfully restrains another person [Unlawful imprisonment]

• A person knowingly and maliciously causes physical damage to the property of another in an amount exceeding $5,000, or causes an interruption of service rendered to the public by physically damaging an emergency vehicle, or causes the impairment of the safety of an aircraft by physically damaging the aircraft [Malicious mischief 1]

• A person possesses a stolen motor vehicle [Possession of stolen vehicle]

• A person commits theft of property other than a firearm which exceeds $5,000, or more than $750 but less than $5,000 [Theft 1]

• A person commits theft of a motor vehicle [Theft of motor vehicle]

The above list does not include any gross misdemeanor or simple misdemeanor offenses that will remain ineligible, such as:

• Non-DV Assault 4

• Reckless endangerment

• Impersonating a law enforcement officer 

• Disarming a law enforcement or corrections officer

• Luring a child or person with a developmental disability 

• Possession of a firearm in violation of an Extreme Risk Protection Order

• Bail jumping for any offense other than 1st degree murder

• Mutilation of human remains

• Attempting to overthrow the government

• Buying or selling a child 


Washington State House Republican Communications