Washington State Police

Olympia, Washington / USA - July 29 2020: Washington State Patrol squad car

(The Center Square) – The study cited by legislators to support Washington’s current police pursuit law, which makes police pursuits hard to justify legally, has reappeared on the website hosting it, but in an altered form.

This new version admits the fall in fatalities of innocent parties from police chases wasn’t as dramatic as the original finding.

As previously reported by The Center Square, for about 24 hours, the URL https://rpubs.com/moxbox/wa_pursuits took potential readers not to the study but to a dead link, saying, “HTTP 404: Not Found.”

On Friday morning, the URL would bring them to a report whose “last update” was listed as “2023-02-02.”

Its reappearance was brought to the attention of The Center Square by Bob Scales, a critic of the study claiming a drop in deaths of innocent parties under the new law by retired University of Washington professor of statistics and sociology Dr. Martina Morris.

Morris did not reply to a previous request for comment by The Center Square asking when the study would be coming back online or address criticism leveled by Scales and others. 

After analyzing both the old report and the new, updated one, Scales wrote a letter to two committee chairs in the Washington Legislature showing that Morris “now claims that between the pre-reform and post-reform periods there was a 67% reduction in fatalities rather than the 73% reduction in her original report.”

This new updated report may contradict testimony she gave in the Legislature Tuesday.

“The statewide number of fatalities from active pursuits has dropped by over 70% in the last year-and-a-half," she told the Washington state House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee. "That’s a lot.”

Scales also raised another concern with the study.

“Dr. Morris also reveals for the first time that she stopped receiving data from the Fatal Encounters database in 2022 because the organization was ‘in transition’” Scales wrote to state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, and state Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond. “Dr. Morris claims that she has been ‘manually updating their vehicular homicide data for WA State since 12/31/2021, replicating their search methods.’”

He further wrote that it “appears” the “data from 2022 and 2023 came from Google searches made by Dr. Morris.”

These Google searches were of media websites, including some that aggregate other content, which could make getting an accurate count of fatal cases harder, as double counts could occur.

Brett Davis contributed to this report.

Regional Editor

Jeremy Lott is a regional editor at The Center Square overseeing the Pacific Northwest. Lott previously worked as an editor for a number of publications and founded three of the Real Clear Politics family of websites.