Chambers says House-approved police pursuit bill falls short of protecting children, public

Just after midnight on Tuesday morning, lawmakers in the state House of Representatives passed a controversial bill, 57-40, that allows police to pursue suspect vehicles on a very limited basis.

Democrats voting against the bill argued it goes too far. Republicans, such as Rep. Kelly Chambers, who also voted no, said the measure doesn’t go far enough.

“This is the best we can come up with? This doesn’t do enough. Not even close.” said Chambers, R-Puyallup.

The existing law, enacted in 2021, boosted the standard for police pursuits from “reasonable suspicion” to “probable cause,” which severely restricted law enforcement from engaging in vehicular pursuits in Washington state.

Senate Bill 5352 would lower the “probable cause” standard for police pursuits to “reasonable suspicion” in limited cases involving those suspected of committing a violent crime, a sex offense, vehicular assault, domestic violence-related offenses, driving under the influence, and trying to escape arrest.

Chambers argued the bill is too narrow and would not protect children, such as Amber Goldade, who was killed in January 2022 and her best friend, Kathleen Olson, severely injured when they were run over by a stolen flatbed landscaping truck near Midland in Pierce County.

“Amber Goldade is dead because police could not pursue the stolen vehicle used to run these two 12-year-old girls over. What is more innocent than two young girls having a sleepover, going up to the school to play and walking back home? And then struck down. They are the victims of this no-pursuit policy,” said Chambers. “This bill doesn’t even come close to making our state safer.”

Chambers also argued that the bill doesn’t address the majority of crimes law enforcement must deal with on a daily basis that put the rest of the community at risk, namely stolen vehicles.

“More than 50-thousand vehicles have been stolen in the last year, sometimes in front of witnesses. Even then, law enforcement is not allowed to pursue,” added Chambers. “They can’t pursue at low speeds. They can’t pursue when no one is around. And they can’t pursue when the threat to the public is too high.”

The House-approved bill would not allow police to stop vehicles suspected of being stolen. Chambers said a stronger law is needed to ensure police can pursue and capture criminals.

“This is what law enforcement is asking of us, so they can keep our communities safe. Until we address stolen vehicles and property crimes, Washington will be a less safe place to live. Our state will be a less safe place to be a 12-year-old kid,” added Chambers. “I don’t even want to think about whose name we will be talking about next year when we come back and there are more victims. This bill continues to tie law enforcement’s hands and prevents officers from pursuing stolen vehicles.”

The bill received mixed votes from Republicans and Democrats. Because it was slightly amended in the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee, it must return to the Senate for concurrence before advancing further.


Washington State House Republican Communications