Cops cannot engage in pursuits as SB 5919 fails, says TPD chief


Tumwater Police Chief Jon Weiks expressed concerns about the police’s limited authority to engage in pursuits as Senate Bill 5919 failed to get support for a vote.

SB 5919 would have allowed police to pursue a person based on “reasonable suspicion”.

Tumwater police abide by the current law, which according to Weiks, eliminates the officers’ ability to pursue. The officers can only pursue somebody for a serious, violent offense, and it has to be approved by a supervisor.

“By the time an officer sees something - and gets that information out - the supervisor processes it and approves the pursuit, those people are gone. So, it is very rare that you will see us in a pursuit,” Weiks told the city’s Public Health and Safety committee in the April 12 meeting.

“As a consequence of the current law, you will hear the police radios - every single day - about people not stopping on normal traffic stops,” Weiks added “They don’t have to stop. They know we can’t chase them.”

However, Weiks told committee members the enactment of House Bill 1719, now permits police officers to use and acquire non-lethal weapons like the .37 mm launcher.

In 2021, the Legislature enacted various police reform laws that Weiks said unintentionally banned many non-lethal weapons, adding that HB 1719 readdressed and rewrote some definitions of less- or non-lethal weapons.

When the law took effect on March 4, all tools were back and available to the police, Weiks said, and they immediately started refresher training with the supervisors and soon with the officers.

Weiks said HB 1735 provided a clearer definition of de-escalation tactics, adding that the law gives officers the ability to “use of physical force” when they need to or when it is necessary for our community.

“We can now assist in fire medical. We can help when we need to in child protective custody incidents, mental health evaluations,” the police chief said, adding that prior legislation had prevented the police from making any of those efforts.

According to Weiks, HB 1735 removed the language about the officers having to leave the area if no criminal crime or crimes was being committed. “We now can stay in the area of these incidents and monitor.”

HB 2037, enacted on March 17, defines the use of physical force, which Weiks said brought back the police’s ability to do Terry stops, which are those based on an officer’s “reasonable suspicion.”

“If we have reasonable suspicion like a crime about to be committed, we can physically keep you there. As it is now written specifically in the law, it is a requirement that we have to let you know that you are not free to leave the area and we are detaining you,” he said.

The previous law set the standard to “probable cause” to detain a person.

He said "use of force and "probable cause" restrictions, doing field interviews was almost impossible until the law was updated. "The criminals knew it. They are becoming emboldened. They would walk away from us because they knew we could not stop them."


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