It has been well established that law enforcement does not pursue in Washington. This is due to the fact of a law that was established in 2021. This law restricts law enforcement’s ability to chase fleeing suspects. Most of us in law enforcement know that there is a time and place for pursuits. Some agencies are laxer than others, but Washington decided to approach with broad strokes and almost wholly banned the practice across the entire state.
One of the exceptions that allow for pursuit is if the offender commits a violent felony. This is precisely what two men decided to do when they robbed a bank on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. Poulsbo Police officers were dispatched to an alarm call at the First Security Bank. As the officers were making their way to the scene, the call was updated, a robbery had occurred. The suspect was seen getting into a red pickup truck, and both men raced away from the scene.
A little less than five minutes later, a deputy from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office found himself behind the suspect vehicle. The men inside the red pickup noticed the deputy following and started to drive erratically and dangerously. The driver put the pedal to the metal and increased their speed. Apparently, this has become a common tactic and occurrence for criminals. Criminals know the limits of the law and the restrictions placed on them by the state. The criminals were under the impression their fleeing would create a situation where law enforcement could not chase them. Boy, were they wrong.
The deputy called in a supervisor to ask permission to engage in a pursuit. According to their policy and state law, this met the pursuit requirements, as it was a violent felony. The suspect vehicle rear-ended another at an intersection and continued to flee. Several other deputies joined in on the pursuit and chased them several miles before attempting a Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) maneuver, thus ending the pursuit.
The two suspects were taken into custody without incident. However, it was later found out that the two men were likely responsible for a string of robberies and thefts, including other banks and retail stores. In addition, the red pickup they were using as a getaway vehicle was also reported stolen.
While they were being taken into custody, one of the criminals was bewildered by the fact that law enforcement chased them. He was under the impression that if he ran, the police would not follow and questioned law enforcement about giving chase.
A press release on the pursuit had this to say:
“Kitsap County Sheriff John Gese noted that he has previously lobbied state lawmakers for the passage of Senate Bill 5919, which would have implemented practical changes in the state’s restrictive pursuit law. This incident is one of numerous recent examples of the effects of the new pursuit law that seems to have emboldened criminals and potentially encourages them to drive dangerously and recklessly to evade capture.”
Knowing that all they have to do is press the vertical pedal on the right, and the cops will back off is a dangerous bit of perceived knowledge. It is clear that changes need to be made to the current law. Criminals know or THINK they know our limits and will push the envelope. This law gives them the confidence to do just that.