Washington police say drivers aren’t stopping for them

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Patrol says drivers are increasingly refusing to stop for troopers — and other law enforcement agencies also say this is becoming a common occurrence.

The Northwest News Network reported that from Jan. 1 to May 17 of this year, the State Patrol logged 934 failure-to-yield incidents. While the patrol didn’t track this in the past, veteran troopers say there’s been a dramatic uptick in drivers fleeing traffic stops.

“Something’s changed. People are not stopping right now,” said Sgt. Darren Wright, a State Patrol spokesperson with 31 years on the job. “It’s happening three to five times a shift on some nights and then a couple times a week on day shift.”

Local police departments are also seeing this behavior. The Puyallup Police Department logged 148 instances of drivers fleeing from officers from July 26, 2021, to May 18, 2022.

Asked if that represents a significant increase, Chief Scott Engle wrote in an email, “I could 1,000,000% say this is completely absolutely emphatically totally unusual.”

In Lakewood, another small city in Pierce County, Chief Mike Zaro said drivers are refusing to stop for his officers on average once a day.

“A lot of times, they’re stolen cars; sometimes, we don’t know what the deal is,” Zaro said.

Steve Strachan, the executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and others in law enforcement connect the increase in failures-to-yield to passage last year of House Bill 1054, a sweeping police tactics law that, among other things, barred high-speed pursuits except in very limited circumstances.

The law was part of a package of police reforms majority Democrats passed in response to the murder by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other high-profile police killings — reforms aimed at addressing racial disproportionality in policing.

Minority Republicans in the Legislature criticized many of the changes, including the pursuit law, and said they jeopardized public safety.

Strachan said he doesn’t dispute the need for statewide rules governing police pursuits, but he thinks the new law went too far.

Under the new law, police officers can’t give chase unless there’s reasonable suspicion to believe the driver is impaired or the higher standard of probable cause to believe they’re an escaped felon or have committed a violent crime or a sex crime.

Even then there are restrictions on when officers can pursue. Officers must balance whether the person poses an “imminent threat” and whether the safety risks of the person getting away outweigh the danger of engaging in a high-speed chase.

This year both the state House and Senate passed a bill with bipartisan votes that would have amended the new pursuit law in response to concerns from police that it was too restrictive. But a final version of the measure died in the Senate. Advocates for police reform opposed the change.

“Why is it we are so concerned about hot pursuits?” asked Martina Morris with the group Next Steps Washington at a February rally at the Capitol. “Because they are dangerous. They are the No. 2 cause of deaths during encounters with police.”

The prime sponsor of House Bill 1054, Democratic state Rep. Jesse Johnson, also opposed lowering the threshold for pursuits.

“I just do not believe pursuits in a 21st century policing system are needed,” Johnson said in a March interview on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program.

More in Crime

Forks man arrested on investigation of drug possession

A Forks man was arrested on investigation of drug possession… Continue reading

Attempted murder trial pushed to November

Sequim man allegedly shot at neighbor in 2022

Drive-by shooter sentenced to 5½ years in prison

Port Angeles man convicted after two-day jury trial

Arrest warrant issued for Sequim contractor

Complainants allege Gamboa failed to complete jobs after being paid

Sequim man charged with six counts of child rape

A Sequim man is facing six counts of third-degree… Continue reading

Alleged bank robber shot by police is identified

A man who allegedly attempted to rob a bank… Continue reading

Woman gets 20 years for murder

Court adds four months for max penalty

Former ER physician still faces civil trial

Hill pleaded guilty to lesser charges Friday

Former physician agrees to plea deal for assaults

Sentencing hearing set for June 24

Clallam Bay man sentenced to 41 years for June 2023 murder

Ojeda-Ibarra pleaded guilty in December

Trial dates set in Sequim home invasion case

Sheriff’s office says actions tied to drug trafficking