House approves controversial police pursuit bill, Reps. Jim Walsh and Joel McEntire issue statement on passage

During late-night debate on the House floor, lawmakers passed a controversial bill that allows police to engage in vehicular pursuits of criminal suspects on a very limited basis.

Police reform sponsored and approved by the majority party in 2021 requires a higher threshold for when officers carry out a pursuit. Rather than “reasonable suspicion” they need “probable cause.” That change has caused a surge in stolen vehicles and those fleeing from police, among other crimes.

Senate Bill 5352 would lower the “probable cause” standard, but only in specific instances. Police could only pursue in limited cases involving those suspected of a violent crime, a sex offense, domestic violence-related offenses, driving while under the influence, and trying to escape arrest.

19th District State Reps. Jim Walsh and Joel McEntire issued the following statement regarding their “no” votes on the Senate-proposed legislation:

“House Democrats were unwilling to improve this watered-down Senate bill. We are both deeply disappointed they’ve failed to produce a policy that will protect our communities and assist law enforcement. To put it simply: This bill is not enough.

“We promised the people of the 19th District to fight hard to restore Washington’s broken police pursuit laws. Since 2021, criminals have been emboldened, and law enforcement abandoned. More than two years later, crime is not simply on the upswing, it’s reaching crisis levels. It’s safe to say this public safety experiment has failed.

“At the start of the session, with 20 Democratic sponsors, a bipartisan fix was offered on police pursuit. House Bill 1363 would have given police the authority needed to pursue criminals and keep our communities safe. This bill doesn’t.

“We need to move this disastrous policy back in the right direction. The ‘reasonable suspicion’ standard for police pursuits of criminals and criminal suspects must be restored. SB 5352 doesn’t do that. Instead, it’s yet another sad example of a bill in search of actual policy — empty virtue signaling with negligible impact on the safety of people and communities. 

“We will not give up. The fight will continue for a real solution to this important public safety issue.”

SB 5352 was approved by the House with a vote of 57-40. The bill now heads to the Senate for a concurrence vote on the amended version of the measure.

Watch McEntire’s floor speech on final passage by clicking here.


Washington State House Republican Communications