WA ballot measure would erase restrictions on police pursuits

Supporters of a ballot measure to ease restrictions on police pursuits in Washington turned in signatures Thursday. Amber Goldade shares the story of how her daughter was killed by the driver of a stolen vehicle. (Courtesy of Jerry Cornfield / Washington State Standard)

Police in Washington would gain more leeway to pursue suspected criminals under an initiative supporters delivered to the Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday.

The proposed ballot measure, Initiative 2113, would erase requirements in state law barring an officer from initiating a chase unless they suspect a person has or is committing certain crimes, such as a violent offense or driving while intoxicated.

Initiative supporters say those restrictions have emboldened criminals to flee authorities – in some cases, with deadly consequences.

“Police were only able to watch as the man who would strike my daughter in a stolen truck sped away,” said Amber Goldade, whose daughter Immaculee was killed by a man driving a stolen truck in Pierce County in 2022.

“They could have stopped him long before he got behind the wheel that day if our laws hadn’t handcuffed the police response to his crimes,” she said in a statement. “I’m fighting to stop this happening to more families.”

State Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen, who also chairs the Washington State Republican Party, is the prime sponsor of this initiative and five others circulated this year by Let’s Go Washington.

So far, supporters have turned in three of the measures.

In November, the group submitted signatures for Initiative 2117 to repeal the Climate Commitment Act and on Monday they delivered petitions for Initiative 2081 to codify a “parents’ bill of rights.”

On Thursday, initiative backers handed in petitions that they said bear 410,518 signatures.

In a statement, the founder of Let’s Go Washington said communities are experiencing rising crime while lawmakers tell residents not to believe their eyes.

“Local police, mayors and city councils should not be stuck with a one-size-fits-all policy that keeps police from doing their job,” said Brian Heywood, a hedge fund manager who’s shelled out more than $5 million on gathering signatures for the six initiatives.

Curtailing potentially deadly high-speed chases gained momentum in Washington in 2021. Democrats used their majorities in the House and Senate to push through several laws tightening guidelines for law enforcement amid a national debate on policing practices spurred by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota in 2020.

Changing the rules for pursuits was part of a broader bill dealing with tactics and equipment used by law enforcement officers. This legislation, for example, barred use of chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants, and restricted deployment of tear gas.

The bill limited vehicular pursuits to when officers had probable cause that a person in a vehicle committed a violent offense, a sex offense, domestic violence-related offenses, driving under the influence of alcohol or trying to escape arrest. As intended, that higher bar led to cops undertaking fewer pursuits.

Civic leaders and law enforcement officials said it also resulted in criminals becoming more brazen knowing police could not pursue them. They pushed for easing the rules so police could go after more suspected wrongdoers.

Majority Democrats responded near the end of this year’s session by amending the law to replace probable cause with the less rigorous reasonable suspicion standard. They left the remainder of the law intact.

Initiative 2113 would eliminate the restrictions and allow vehicular pursuits if “there is reasonable suspicion a person has violated the law.”

To be certified, Initiative 2113 petitions must contain the signatures of at least 324,516 registered voters. State election officials recommend initiative sponsors submit at least 405,000 signatures to account for any found to be invalid.

The process of certifying valid signatures will begin after the Dec. 29 deadline for filing initiatives to the Legislature.

Because it is an initiative to the Legislature, if it has the requisite number of signatures it will first be sent to lawmakers who can adopt it as written in the 2024 session. They also can reject or refuse to act on it, in which case it will go on the November 2024 ballot.

Lawmakers can approve an alternative measure to be placed on the ballot alongside the initiative if they want, as well.

by Jerry Cornfield, Washington State Standard

Editor’s note: This story was updated following the filing of initiative petitions.

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: info@washingtonstatestandard.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

  1. If the bad guys are going to run away whether the police chase them or not might the lights and sirens warn people of coming danger? Might letting go of people deliberately running away from police encourage more people to try? You don’t run if you aren’t guilty of something the sooner the bad guys get the message we won’t let you go and when we catch you you are going to pay a extra price for running. The better off we will be.

  2. Just for the record, the George Floyd case was ruled an overdose. There was no evidence of damage to his neck or airway. He had taken a lethal combination of drugs and the media fanned the flames of a lie. And our cities were destroyed as a result.
    It was a tragedy to be sure. But he was a criminal, not a victim.

      1. Interesting my understanding it was a combination of a lethal for most people dose plus the aggravating circumstances. I have no doubt he was treated poorly facedown on the street that was a awful look. I have it as contributing factors and I’ll leave it at that.

      2. Thank you for clarifying my point. Using media or “fact checking” to draw conclusions is faulty in itself as those entities are most often either bought and paid for or punching a narrative.
        Read the autopsy report found in this article and draw conclusions based on your own critical thinking. Don’t let someone else tell you what conclusions to reach.
        Question everything.


  3. I fully support this “correction”. The restrictions enacted to correct a problem were too restrictive and have resulted in unintended consequences that are bad for our communities. The pendulum swung too far. It’s time for a correction.
    Our valuable law enforcement officers are highly trained professionals. We need to allow them to make informed decisions and do their jobs effectively, safely, and responsibly.

  4. I agree they should be able to chase. The police are smart enough to decide at that point on what to do, let’s give them the chance to do it. However if they are just let go when they are booked by crazy judges and district attorneys….what’s the point? Or the police are told their is no room at the inn to put the bad guys.

  5. Excellent. Just like Jim said, if the bad guys know the police won’t chase, they’re more likely to commit the crime. I spent 35 years in law enforcement; whenever our agency got into a vehicle pursuit, the first thing that was done was making sure a supervisor (sergeant or above) was monitoring. The pursuing officer always calls out his location, direction of travel, amount of traffic present, speed, and road conditions. Sometimes the backup units would follow on parallel streets so there’s not a ‘caravan’ of blue lights. It’s NOT like tv or movies where they’re just driving like maniacs; pursuits are closely monitored, and frequently terminated by the supervisor if it is deemed too dangerous. Officers are also trained in the use of spike strips, the use of the Pit Maneuver, and rarely shoot at moving vehicles…let them do their job.

  6. The argument about others cars being hit etc. doesn’t hold water with me. All of my life I knew if ya hear the sirens, you pull over and get out of the way. Whether it be an ambulance or a fire truck or a police car. If you didn’t do this, you could be ticketed. We know do not pass a school bus. Do not attempt to speed by if the school bus has its stop sign out. We need to follow our laws. These are safety and courtesy laws. We need laws like rules in any society.
    Because if ya don’t know the rules you can’t play the game.

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