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Wash. gov. signs new pursuit law at opening of new LEO training center

The new bill makes it easier to start pursuing someone suspected of committing a violent crime, a sex offense or driving while intoxicated


Gov. Inslee thanked the police officers across the state for doing the best job that they can to keep people safe.

Governor Jay Inslee/Twitter

By Cameron Probert
Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

PASCO, Wash. — Name placards are all laid out for Monday’s start of the first class of Washington state’s first regional police training center in Pasco.

Among those who will fill those seats next week are a single mother and the only English-speaking member of an immigrant family.

They are among many police officer candidates who in the past couldn’t have considered a law enforcement career because they would need to be away from their families for five months during the rigorous training in Western Washington.

“It was law enforcement in the state of Washington’s vision of how we could better recruit officers, potentially better train them at the local level,” Pasco Police Chief Ken Roske told a crowd gathered Wednesday outside the new training site.

The chief was joined by Gov. Jay Inslee, the head of the Criminal Justice Training Center, Monica Alexander, and several other dignitaries as they cut the ribbon for the project on Wednesday.

The training center is one of four that are expected to open across the state, and the only one in Eastern Washington. Others are planned for Vancouver, Everett and Bellingham.

The first class will bring in students from as far away as the Grant County Sheriff’s Office and Mabton Police.

In addition, the students will be trained by about 50 Tri-Cities police officers, so they’ll have a chance to meet officers they will likely be working with.

Roske told the Herald that the concept of a regional training center has been a dream for many years, and it’s been nearly a year since it was announced.

Around the state

Officials announced the plans to convert the police training facility on Clark Avenue in July, and have been putting the final touches on the building in the last few weeks.

Alexander, a former state patrol captain, said the Tri-Cities police agencies worked with the training center to bring the project together.

“This is a very exciting event,” said Alexander, a former captain with the Washington State Patrol. “This is the first, but not the last. We’re going to move on from here and we’re going to continue to do this ... so our communities do not have to wait.”

Tri-Cities police agencies have been working hard to fill spots after years of low interest in joining police departments. They are not alone. In recent years, agencies across the state have struggled to find replacements as dozens of officers retired.

Inslee thanked the police officers across the state for doing the best job that they can to keep people safe.

“It has been a difficult time for multiple communities in our nation, including those in law enforcement, and I want the people in law enforcement to know through those difficult days we have made some changes that I think will improve our state,” he said.

He said officers need to know that they are respected by the 8 million residents in the state.

And he was excited to see that the state is able to expand its great training program across the state.

“Isn’t it great that people now can get training in this community and don’t have to leave their families,” he said. “This is a tremendous advance when it comes to law enforcement.”

Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, has been one of the main proponents of the regional training centers. Quoting Alexander, he described the experience of opening the center as being like the first day of school.

Having the extra capacity in Pasco will mean the state will be able to train more officers in Burien, as well, Lovick said.

“I was told not to say, ‘Wow,’ but I’m going to say, ‘Wow.’ This is absolutely outstanding,” he said. “Community safety is our top priority. This regional academy illustrates what we can do when we work together toward a common goal.”

Police pursuit

Along with celebrating the opening of the new training center, Inslee signed Senate Bill 5352 into law. The bill makes it easier for police to start pursuing someone suspected of committing a violent crime, a sex offense or driving while intoxicated.

While the move eases back restrictions put in place following a wave of protests following the death of George Floyd, it’s a move that police have supported, after saying the previous restrictions prevented them from pursuing people that they only suspected of committing a crime.

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EARLIER: Wash. pursuit bill, with modified rules, heads to governor for signing