A new law intended to ease some restrictions on police vehicle pursuits may instead have the effect of curbing such pursuits. Following the murder of George Floyd, Washington enacted guidelines in 2021 to allow police to track vehicles only in certain circumstances. On May 3, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5352, easing restrictions but requiring officers to take a specific training course before participating in chases.
The Democratic lawmaker, a former Washington State Patrol member, said high-speed pursuit was so dangerous that officers had a duty to limit its use. Across the aisle, a Republican state legislator said the guidelines for high-speed tracking should be lowered to the level they were before the changes made after the George Floyd riots.
Senate Bill 5352 passed the Senate by a 26-22 vote, with prominent Democrats and Republicans saying there is still work to be done. Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz wasted no time providing information to the rank and file police. He wrote that Seattle police officers, effective immediately, cannot engage in vehicle tracking unless they have the training required by the new law.
There are also reports that there are not many trained police officers. Also, it can take a long time before large numbers of police officers are trained. “We fully understand the risks involved in suspending prosecution of large sections of the department,” Diaz wrote. “We are also mindful of the risks to employees and departments from not complying with state laws.”
There was little backlash from the leadership of the Seattle Police Department. “We are working to better understand the scope of the new requirements while adhering to the new legal restrictions,” the ministry said. The police department is reportedly in talks with the Criminal Justice Training Board and the city’s public prosecutor’s office to ensure that the department’s investigative policies comply with the new law.