I was driving yesterday on WA-240 in Kennewick and witnessed a high-speed police chase easily over 100 mph. I think it illustrates why we urgently need to change Washington’s no-pursuit police law. Let me explain.
How the High-Speed Chase on WA-240 Started
I was driving (11/29/22 around 3 pm) on WA-240 heading west, and had just passed the 60-mph sign after entering from the Blue Bridge. I was in the left lane behind a slower pickup truck that starts to pull over in the right lane after speeding up to 60 mph. Once he pulled over, I noticed a Washington State Patrol in the divide ahead radaring traffic. I look behind me to also pull into the right lane like the truck and that is where my story really begins.
A Black Mustang Illegally Passed Me on the Right
I start to pull into the right lane when I notice a black suped-up Ford Mustang suddenly very close behind me. Before I can get over, he speeds around me on the right and in front of the trooper. As the black Mustang pulls back into the left lane, he obviously sees the police, the trooper’s car starts to move, and I know he is busted. Then I hear the mustang hit the gas and accelerate to what I can only guess was easily over 120 mph. The left lane was free in front of him until Eddison so he took advantage and tried to run.
The Trooper Takes Chase
I drove by the trooper still on the side of the road having to wait for another car to pass behind me before pulling out to chase the Mustang. As the Mustang sped down WA-240 I could still hear the engine roaring. I pulled over to the right lane and the Washington State Trooper drove past me also driving over 100 mph trying to catch the black Mustang. Then the Mustang hit the brakes and turned into the Eddison exit to lose the trooper.
The Washington State Trooper Follows Onto the Eddison Exit
The black Mustang drove up the right side of the exit past cars stopped at the light and waited at the top to see if the trooper went by. The trooper spotted the Mustang before the exit, hit his brakes, and also turned up the on-ramp onto Eddison. The Mustang then shot back across Eddison to the on-ramp back on WA-240. The trooper followed and I lost sight of them. After seeing all of that, there are two things that really bothered me about the police chase that shows why we need to change Washington State law.
The Washington State No Pursuit Law Needs to Be Changed
There is a big pushback from Washington State police about the no-pursuit law that was passed in 2021. It was passed with a bundle of reform laws for police that says police can not chase a vehicle unless they basically have proof the suspect is guilty of a violent crime or a sex crime. That means in the situation I experienced today, the police should not have chased according to the law. THAT IS WHY the guy in the Mustang ran. He thought if he ran that he could get away. That is the main reason leaders all over the state are trying to get the law changed.
Did the Trooper Also Risk the Public Safety with This Mistake?
Something that the WSP Trooper DID NOT do at that moment made me almost as upset with him as I was with the reckless Mustang driver. The entire time I watched the trooper chase the Mustang, he NEVER turned on his lights or the siren. He was driving at speeds over 100 mph on a busy freeway and anyone could have pulled out in front of him. At those speeds, someone in the right lane could have not seen him coming and been killed or seriously hurt. Why did the trooper not turn on his lights during the chase if it was so dangerous? I have a theory.
Is The No Pursuit Law the Reason the Trooper Kept his Lights Off?
The law defines a vehicular pursuit when a “vehicle equipped with emergency lights and a siren try to stop a moving vehicle where the operator of the moving vehicle appears to be aware that the officer is signaling the operator to stop the vehicle and the operator of the moving vehicle appears to be willfully resisting or ignoring the officer’s attempt to stop the vehicle.” Police can only start a vehicular pursuit under a few stipulations, and driving erratically or speeding is not one of them in Washington State. If they do not turn on their lights, is it still considered a pursuit? According to the definition of the law, it is not considered a pursuit unless the officer is “signaling the operator to stop.” If the police do not turn on their emergency lights before pursuing, do they have to abide by the no pursuit law? Let’s look at what situations police can legally pursue a suspect.
What are the Legal Reason Police Can Enter a Vehicular Pursuit?
According to Washington State Law, police can only start a vehicle pursuit if “there is probable cause to believe that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense or sex offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, or an escape under chapter 9A.76 RCW, or there is reasonable suspicion a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a driving under the influence offense under RCW 46.61.502, or the pursuit is necessary for the purpose of identifying or apprehending the person, or the person poses an imminent threat to the safety of others.” You can read the rest of the stipulations by clicking here. The high-speed chase I saw today did not fall under any of those reasons.
Did the State Trooper Have to Turn His Emergency Lights On?
This question is more complicated than it seems. Washington State law says that police do not have to turn on emergency lights but that the “foregoing provisions shall not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons.” The law seems to hold public safety as the main balance for allowing police to speed in certain situations. I’ll be the first to admit I am not an expert but I felt the situation was very dangerous to the public at the time.
What is the Answer to Fixing the Washington State No-Pursuit Law?
What I experienced yesterday made me think about a lot of questions Washington State needs to find the answers to. Is the no-pursuit law causing people to run dangerously from the police? Was the trooper putting drivers on WA-240 at risk because of his speed while driving with no lights to alert them of the danger? Was the no-pursuit law the reason that the trooper even made that choice to not turn on his lights in the first place? Whichever way you believe, the no-pursuit law needs to be changed because we are living with consequences that will eventually lead to people dying. The best way to change this is of you to call your Washington State lawmaker to express your thoughts on how we can change the no-pursuit law for the better. Thank you for listening, and please drive safe.
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