Padden applauds Senate’s passage of initiative restoring police pursuits

The Senate’s 36-13 passage today of Initiative 2113, which would restore police pursuits in Washington, is a major step toward making Washington communities safer, said 4th District Sen. Mike Padden.

Padden, the Republican leader on the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said I-2113 would help reverse the growing crime problem in Washington.

“Among the many problems plaguing Washington now, crime is perhaps the greatest concern for citizens and communities throughout our state,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “In fact, we have reached a crisis point in our state because of skyrocketing crime.

“Thanks to recent state laws that restrict law-enforcement officers and weaken public safety, criminals have become more emboldened. They are acting in a more brazen manner as they commit crimes. The result is many people throughout Washington have been victims of auto theft, retail theft, burglary and other property crimes. Making matters worse, many auto thieves use their stolen vehicles to smash into ‘pot shops’ to steal cash, or they use these cars as battering rams to break into other stores to steal merchandise.

“The crime spike here in Washington has a strong connection to a recent law enacted by majority Democrats that placed tight limits on when law-enforcement officers can engage in vehicle pursuits of suspects. Fortunately, if and when Initiative 2113 is enacted by the Legislature and becomes law in early June, law-enforcement officers will once again be able to pursue suspects instead of helplessly watching them drive away,” added Padden.

According to the Washington State Patrol, between 2014 and 2020 an average of 1,200 suspects per year fled from police. In 2022, after the pursuit standard was changed to probable cause, 3,100 suspects fled — an increase of more than 150%. Before the change in the pursuit law, the statewide record for stolen cars in a single year was 30,000. That record increased to nearly 47,000 stolen vehicles in 2022. Washington is now fourth in the U.S. for auto thefts per capita.

“It’s not only the owner of the vehicle that suffers as the victim, it’s all the crimes that are committed with these stolen vehicles. Some of these crimes have led to the deaths of our citizens,” said Padden during his floor speech in favor of the initiative.

Padden said many sheriffs and police chiefs throughout Washington have voiced their frustration about the tighter pursuit restrictions, to little avail. The senator added that the Legislature last year passed a law restoring some ability for law-enforcement officers to pursue suspects, but it still is far short of the pre-2021 police-pursuit policy.

“We can take a major step right here, right now, to protect public safety, to protect our citizens and our constituents. It isn’t going to solve all of our problems, but it’s going to go a long way to make law enforcement better able to do their jobs,” Padden told senators during his floor speech.

All 20 Senate Republicans were joined by 16 Democrats in voting for I-2113 today.

“It was encouraging to see most of our Democratic colleagues join us in voting for this important initiative. I’m hopeful we’ll see an equally strong bipartisan vote in favor of I-2113 when the House considers it,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on I-2113 later today. If the Legislature approves I-2113, it would go into effect June 6.

When the Senate Law and Justice Committee and the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee held a joint public hearing on I-2113 last week, 5,961 people signed up to testify, either in person or via written testimony. Of that total, 5,752 (96.49%) supported the initiative.

“The overwhelming majority of people who signed up in favor of I-2113 is a very clear sign that Washingtonians want to see police pursuits restored. They want safer communities instead of rising crime and lawlessness,” said Padden.

The 2024 legislative session is scheduled to end Thursday.