WA police unable to pursue vehicles refusing to stop

KENNEWICK, Wash. – According to a law passed last year, Washington state police cannot pursue a car unless a violent felony is involved, there is suspicion of impairment, or if the driver is causing a danger to the public. Supervisor approval is also required prior to engaging in the pursuit.

This leaves the Washington State Patrol with 934 instances from January to May where drivers did not stop because police could not pursue, according to Sergeant Darren Wright, a spokesperson for the Washington State Patrol.

“All of the boxes have to be checked before the pursuit is engaged,” said Sgt. Wright.

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The Washington State Patrol is now changing the way that they handle these interactions.

“Although we can’t chase them, the act of fleeing from a traffic stop like that is a felony–it is still failure to allude, and if we follow up and find that person, then we still can charge them with a felony for failure to allude,” said Sgt. Wright. “Using tools like the aircraft has been very effective for us, in catching the people who choose not to stop.”

Not only is it illegal to run from the police, he says, but it’s also very unsafe.

“I believe we’ve had 46 pursuits, which is down from the same time period in 2020, prior to the law, we had 219 pursuits,” said Sgt. Wright.

These 46 pursuits had to pass through the criteria before law enforcement were allowed to engage. The number of police pursuits has dropped significantly due to the requirements.

This law was intended to prevent officers from using excess force and keep the public safe from dangerous situations that could happen on the roads, but it also has left the WSP unable to pursue vehicles who refuse to stop, leaving many to wonder about the effectiveness of this law.

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