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More suspects will get away, Wash. cops say after reform rollback bill fails

A more restrictive pursuit policy was not among the bills that were adjusted in a wave of police reform rollbacks

Yakima Police Department

Yakima Police Department

By Suzie Ziegler

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Last year, Washington state implemented a sweeping police reform package that many law enforcement professionals said was too restrictive, interfered with police work and put the public at risk. Lawmakers agreed, and so last week Gov. Jay Inslee signed a new set of bills to adjust some of those reforms. But not all of them.

Senate Bill 5919, which failed to pass, would have once again allowed police to engage in vehicle pursuits if there is “reasonable suspicion” a crime had occurred. The earlier reforms package requires police to have “probable cause” before engaging in a pursuit. That still stands.

Police leaders in Yakima County were disappointed by the outcome, saying the greater burden of proof will mean some suspects will get away, reported the Yakima Herald-Republic.

“We’re really careful here, we don’t want to be just chasing people,” said Yakima Police Chief Matt Murray. “But it limits our ability.”

Murray pointed to a 2019 incident that resulted in the arrest of a shooting suspect. Officers saw the stolen car that was used in the shooting and pursued it.

“Under the new standard, we would have had to have positive information,” Murray said.

The latest round of bills did rollback other reforms, such as redefining use-of-force and allowing police to use shotguns to fire less-lethal rounds.

[BACKGROUND: Washington’s new laws tie the hands of law enforcement officers]