A law passed in Washington in 2021 as part of a law enforcement reform package has led to a series of high-speed pursuits in the Evergreen State. The law prevents police from pursuing suspects unless they are suspected of driving under the influence or may have committed a violent crime or sex offense, but many motorists appear to believe that it applies in all situations. During the early morning hours of Jan. 8, a pickup truck with a 28-year-old woman behind the wheel was pursued by state troopers for about seven miles because she thought she did not have to pull over.
Weaving between lanes
The pursuit began at approximately 12:30 a.m. when a Washington State Patrol trooper signaled the pickup truck to pull over on State Route 27 in Spokane County. The trooper allegedly observing the pickup truck weaving between lanes. Instead of pulling over, the pickup truck allegedly reached speeds of up to 100 mph in an attempt to elude the trooper. The pursuit came to an end when another trooper placed a spike strip on State Route 27 near Belmont Road. The woman has been charged with driving under the influence and attempting to elude law enforcement.
During the pursuit, one of the woman’s two passengers called 911 to report the trooper for violating the recently passed law. The call was then passed to WSP personnel who were monitoring the situation and had given the trooper permission to pursue the vehicle. The passenger was questioned at the scene and released.
Clarity is needed
This pursuit could have ended in tragedy if it had taken place during the day when traffic is heavier, and it may have been avoided altogether if politicians and media outlets had provided more complete details about the new law. When legislation affects the way law enforcement deals with the public, the media has a responsibility to provide clarity and report all relevant information.