Should police be allowed to engage in high-speed pursuits if they just suspect someone is engaged in a crime? The state Legislature is set to debate that issue following verification of a citizen initiative that gives police more leeway in decision making. (Mary Murphy/Washington State Journal)

Should police be allowed to engage in high-speed pursuits if they just suspect someone is engaged in a crime? The state Legislature is set to debate that issue following verification of a citizen initiative that gives police more leeway in decision making. (Mary Murphy/Washington State Journal)

State Legislature to debate high-speed police pursuits

Initiative 2113 would amend law to be ‘reasonable suspicion’

OLYMPIA — A citizen initiative aimed at giving police wider discretion on when they engage in high-speed pursuits was forwarded to the state Legislature.

Secretary of State Steve Hobbs notified the Legislature on Jan. 11 petitions for Initiative 2113 meet all legal requirements.

I-2113 backers want to amend a law on police pursuit that passed in 2021, which requires officers to have “probable cause” instead of “reasonable suspicion” to engage in pursuits.

Critics say that measure hinders law enforcement officers who want to pursue possible lawbreakers.

Backers say high-speed chases can turn deadly and that less-dangerous methods can be employed to bring people to justice.

To be verified, a state initiative requires 324,516 signatures. If that bar is met, a random sample of collected signatures is verified. Now that signatures are verified, the Legislature can take three possible courses of action.

The Legislature can either adopt the initiative as proposed or refuse to act. If it is not adopted, the initiative must be placed on the ballot in the next general election.

The Legislature could also propose a different measure dealing with the same subject. In that case, both measures must be placed on the ballot.

Expanding police powers and providing more money for law enforcement is a strong theme in this year’s Legislature.

The police pursuit initiative is one of six submitted to the Secretary of State’s office so far this session.

All six initiatives are led by “Let’s Go Washington,” an organization funded by Brian Heyword, a business owner from Redmond and a large donor to Republican causes. The campaign gathered more than 2.6 million signatures for all six initiatives.

The other five initiatives are: 2117, which rolls back carbon taxes; 2124, an opt-out provision for the state-run long-term care coverage act; 2109, which repeals the capital gains tax; 2111, preventing a state income tax; and 2081, a parents’ right-to-know initiative that includes the option to opt out of sex education.

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The Washington State Journal is a nonprofit news website funded by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.

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