King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn cited alarming new statistics on drivers eluding law enforcement in King County as the Washington State Legislature prepares to hear Senate Bill 5533 and House Bill 1363, bipartisan legislation that would amend restrictions placed on police pursuits.
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn in a letter Monday cited alarming new statistics on drivers eluding law enforcement in King County as the Washington State Legislature prepares to hear Senate Bill 5533 and House Bill 1363, bipartisan legislation that would amend restrictions placed on police pursuits.
“When criminals and suspects are legally allowed to ignore and evade the police, it’s law-abiding citizens who pay the price,” Dunn said. “Here in King County, police evasions without pursuit have nearly tripled since legal restrictions were implemented — an unacceptable figure for our communities who deserve to be safe in their own neighborhoods. State lawmakers must act now to fix this dangerous policy.”
Dunn’s letter echoes concerns voiced by both state and local law enforcement that suspects are increasingly refusing to stop for police. In 2022, there were 518 incidents of suspects eluding police without pursuit in King County, which is nearly triple the 168 incidents recorded in 2020, according to data provided by the King County Sheriff’s Office.
This surge in drivers eluding police is widely understood to be a direct result of House Bill 1054, which was passed in 2021. Under this new law, police officers must establish probable cause to believe that the suspect is an escaped felon or have committed a violent crime. In practice, this means that officers can only pursue a suspect in the most obvious cases that a dangerous crime has taken place.
House Bill 1363, introduced by Representative Alicia Rule (D-Blaine), and the companion Senate Bill 5352, would lower the threshold for a pursuit from probable cause to a reasonable suspicion. Unlike probable cause, reasonable suspicion means that police can pursue if it is likely that the suspect committed a crime.
Senate Bill 5533, introduced by Senator John Lovick (D-Mill Creek), comes in response to opposition by to the bipartisan Senate Bill 5352. It would create a model vehicle pursuit policy work group within the Criminal Justice Training Commission to develop model vehicle pursuit policies but would not take action to roll back vehicular pursuit restrictions.
Senate Bill 5533 will have its first hearing on January 30 in the Senate Law and Justice Committee. House Bill 1363 will have its first hearing on January 31 in the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee.