Washington police organization urges legislators to prioritize public safety policies


The Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs is urging state lawmakers to consider bills in the upcoming legislative session that improve the following: recruitment and retention, juvenile justice, and vehicle pursuits.

Recruitment and retention

“Understaffed and under-resourced law enforcement agencies affect crime prevention, response time to 911 calls, and increases stress on our remaining police officers,” WASPC said in a pre-session statement. “Every community deserves a public safety agency that is well-trained, well-equipped, and well-staffed to deliver the best public service.”

For more than 12 years, Washington has had the fewest law enforcement officers per capita among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to WASPC.

"We need to act quickly to begin to catch up with the growth of our region."

Juvenile justice

Current laws require an attorney’s permission before police can speak to a juvenile suspect.

Attorneys generally are against allowing police to talk with juveniles about an investigation, WASPC notes, and that “takes away opportunities for youth to declare their innocence [and] offer helpful information about other suspects or evidence related to an investigation.”

WASPC seeks legislation that allows what it deems to be a positive intervention between troubled youth and law enforcement, anticipating reduced crime as a result.

Vehicle pursuits

While the state Legislature made a few adjustments to police vehicle pursuit laws this year, WASPC contends there has been a minimal reduction in such pursuits.

Engrossed Senate Bill 5352, passed by the Legislature this year and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, lowered the threshold for police pursuits from “probable cause” to “reasonable suspicion” in cases involving the most serious crimes.

ESB 5352 was a response House Bill 1054, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Inslee in 2021, limited police to engaging in a pursuit if there is “probable cause” to arrest a person in the vehicle for committing a specific violent crime or sex offense such as murder, kidnapping, drive-by shooting or rape.

In addition to legislation allowing law enforcement more latitude in pursuing suspects, the association seeks legislation that lets police utilize resources such as traffic cameras.

“We can’t allow offenders the advantage over victims and to just drive away,” WASPC said.

The upcoming 60-day legislative session convenes on Jan. 8.