(The Center Square) – With the final hard deadline for bills to pass out of their chamber of origin just hours away on Wednesday, supporters of police vehicular pursuit reform legislation in the House of Representatives rallied at the Capitol Campus in Olympia at 1 p.m.
Substitute House Bill 1363 would restore police officers’ ability to engage in vehicle pursuits of someone accused of a violent or sex crime, vehicular assault, escape, driving under the influence, or domestic violence.
Proponents of SHB 1363 argue the law needs to be updated in aftermath of House Bill 1054, enacted in 2021, which upped the threshold for engaging in vehicle chases to probable cause from reasonable suspicion. Since HB 1054 went into effect nearly two years ago, there has been a marked increase in auto thefts and drivers refusing to stop for police.
Opponents of the bill argue police chases are too dangerous.
“You shouldn’t have to be here to ask public servants to prioritize the safety of you and the people that you love,” said [un]Divided podcast host and independent journalist Brandi Kruse a day after majority Democrats in the House refused to allow full debate and a floor vote on SHB 1363.
She added, “We shouldn’t have to be here because inside the Capitol today there are enough votes in both the House and the Senate, among Democrats and Republicans, to pass a pursuit fix today. There are enough votes, but apparently there is not enough political will – or at least there hasn’t been thus far.”
Rep. Kelly Chambers, R-Puyallup, echoed those comments in addressing the crowd gathered at the steps of the Capitol building across from the state Supreme Court building.
“There’s no reason House Bill 1363 doesn’t come out for a vote today,” she said.
Chambers represents the district where Amber Goldade lives.
Goldade’s 12-year-old daughter, Immaculee, was killed in January 2022 in a hit-and-run crash in Midland by a man who had stolen a flatbed pickup truck. The younger Goldade’s best friend was with her at the time and was injured in the crash.
“If the police were able to pursue him, he could have been caught and put back in jail, preventing him from harming innocent, law-abiding citizens and not kill my daughter,” an emotional Goldade said.
She went on to say, “I have suffered horrendously, and I will suffer until my dying day because the police were not able to pursue a known criminal with a stolen vehicle and place him in jail where he wouldn’t be a danger to the community.”
One former state senator, Simon Sefzik, who helped to organize the rally on a day’s notice, gave credit to Goldade family for getting a good number of people out to protest.
“It’s not my specialty, so it took a village to do it,” the Ferndale Republican said after the rally was over.
Sen. Nikki Torres, R-Pasco, brought up a more recent tragedy in her district: a speeding driver who on Feb. 28 collided head on with a car near Sunnyside, killing two children. Washington State Patrol troopers had tried four times to stop the driver, but could not pursue because the driver was only suspected of speeding.
“We cannot wait another two years for a policy or a fix to come out,” she said. “We cannot wait that long.”
Kruse put things into perspective.
“If we’re not safe…then nothing else that they do in this Capitol behind us matters,” she said.