Wash. police chief ‘frustrated’ officers couldn’t pursue suspected catalytic converter thief

Chief Stacy Denham says thieves have become more emboldened because they know officers won’t pursue them under a new state law


By Suzie Ziegler 

CENTRALIA, Wash. — A police chief in Washington state says officers are frustrated that state law prevented them from going after a suspect who stole a catalytic converter. According to KING 5, law enforcement in Washington can only initiate high-speed pursuits for someone suspected of DUI or a violent crime. 

“I think most officers probably in this state are very frustrated with this particular law,” said Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham. 

The incident began Sunday when officers responded to a call about a man looking underneath cars, Denham said. When officers approached, the man got in a car and drove away. Officers followed with their lights flashing, but the suspect refused to pull over and officers had to stop the pursuit to comply with state law, Denham said. 

Denham says the state law is to blame for an uptick in car thefts and catalytic converter thefts because criminals know officers won’t pursue them.  

“We have had a lot more people running from us than ever before,” said Denham. "We want to do something about it." 

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

Washington state lawmakers have received pushback from law enforcement after passing sweeping police reforms in 2021 that restricted when officers are allowed to use force. Some of those reforms were revised this year to loosen some of those restrictions. 

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