STATEMENT: Police-pursuit bill narrowly passed by Senate today is ‘half step’ in the right direction, says Republican leader

OLYMPIA… Senate Republican Leader John Braun today offered this statement following the Senate’s narrow passage of legislation that would let law-enforcement officers engage in vehicular pursuits in more situations than Washington law has allowed since 2021. Senate Bill 5352 was passed with a 26-23 vote on the final day of this session for the Senate to act on Senate legislation that is not connected to a budget.

“Criminals have been able to act with impunity since the majority Democrats put extreme restrictions on police pursuits in 2021. They know they can commit felonies without being at risk of being chased. Our communities have suffered great harm as a result.

“For the past two years Senate Republicans have worked to restore the ability of police to use their judgment when deciding to engage in pursuits. We almost succeeded in 2022, but this session the majority had kept SB 5352 and other worthwhile proposals bottled up. For that reason I appreciate that the majority leaders changed course and agreed with us on bringing a pursuit-reform bill to the Senate floor, so we could have an open debate.

“Unfortunately, this bill as passed would only move our state a half-step in the right direction. Republicans proposed amendments that would again allow pursuits when there is reasonable suspicion of vehicle theft or reckless driving. The majority voted them down, with some claiming a choice must be made between protecting life or protecting property. That is a false choice. I believe our law-enforcement officers are trained and capable of making good choices regarding pursuits and should be trusted to do so. By rejecting our amendments, the majority showed its lack of trust in police.

“I realize our Democratic colleagues can now honestly say they have taken action on this issue, even though SB 5352 is not nearly sufficient to address the lawlessness that has been sweeping through our communities. Criminals will figure out what laws they can still break without being pursued. People will continue to suffer when a vehicle is stolen. Employers will continue to be hurt when criminals use stolen vehicles as battering rams against their places of business.

“I don’t believe this is the policy the people of Washington deserve, which is why I voted no. Some of my Republican colleagues took the position that a half step is better than none, and voted in support. I respect their choice – that’s part of trusting the process and letting democracy work. Either way, Republicans will keep trying to fix the mistakes made two years ago. We must do better.”

(Click here to view Senator Braun’s remarks prior to the final vote on SB 5352.)