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Standards for pursuits, use of force updated

Police can pursue and stop vehicles if they have a “reasonable suspicion” of a crime being committed under new legislation that is headed to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee.

The Washington State House of Representatives voted 86-12 in favor of SB 5919 March 4 with bipartisan support. The Senate previously voted in favor of the same bill early last month.

This legislation reverses current law which cites “probable cause” as sufficient reason to engage in a vehicular pursuit. Under SB 5919, however, “reasonable suspicion” will be enough to allow an officer to engage in a vehicular pursuit.

The bill also cleans up language adopted last year describing when an officer can use force. Many in the law enforcement community said the language was confusing and contradictory.

The new bill says an officer can use physical force to:

• protect against criminal conduct where there is probable cause to make an arrest;

• make an investigative detention;

• effect an investigative detention, with less than probable cause if the officer has reasonable and articulable facts that point toward criminal activity;

• protect against an imminent threat of bodily injury to the officer, another person or the person against whom force is being used.

Under the bill, the amount of force officers can use must be reasonable and proportional to the amount of resistance they face.

SB 5919 now awaits Inslee’s approval to be signed into law.

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