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Washingtonians hope for safer streets on eve of police pursuit law change

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(The Center Square) – Beginning Thursday, June 6, law enforcement officers in Washington can once again pursue someone if they have reasonable suspicion that person has violated any law.

Lawmakers amended the stricter policy after a voter initiative was submitted to the legislature and was adopted into law earlier this year.

The 2021 law that significantly restricted police came as part of a package of reforms which Republicans and law enforcement say gave criminals the upper hand and led to huge spikes in crime.

“This was a completely unnecessary social experiment,” said Federal Way Mayor and former King County prosecutor Jim Ferrell. “As a result of this experiment with legalizing drugs and not allowing police pursuits, Washington state became the number one place in the nation per-capita for car theft.”

WA ranked 4th overall in a National Insurance Crime Bureau report, disregarding population.

Each law enforcement agency will now have the authority to set its own policy for officers to follow.

Even before the Thursday law change, Ferrell tells The Center Square that car theft is way down in Federal Way, “because the bad guys know things are changing.”

“Comparing last year to this year, car theft through May is down 39% in the city, and you’re going to see the bottom of that number drop down even further,” said Ferrell.

Opponents of loosening pursuit restrictions argue it will lead to innocent bystanders and officers getting hurt or killed in risky pursuits.

They also contend officers will put themselves or drivers at risk over minor infractions.

During a March public hearing on I-2113, Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said lifting pursuit restrictions was a bad idea.

“The initiative would permit a chase for any violation of law,” she said. “That includes an expired tab, a broken taillight, loud music, any infraction whatsoever could allow law enforcement to engage in a high-speed chase.”

Ferrell tells The Center Square that is not going to happen.

“That whole position is absurd, law enforcement doesn’t do that and there have always been protocols.”

Amber Goldade knows first-hand the horrors of giving criminals free reign.

“January 15 of 2022, my 12-year-old daughter Immaculee and her best friend Kathleen were walking to the nearby elementary school (in Pierce County) to play since it was a Saturday. When they were coming home, they chose to walk down 104th, a busier road. It doesn’t have sidewalks but does have a fog line,” said Goldade. “It was 10:30 in the morning and they were hit from behind by a guy who was driving a stolen truck. A large landscaping truck.”

Immaculee was killed instantly. Kathleen survived.

Goldade says Immaculee was a special little girl. “Everybody thought she was their best friend, because she made a friend wherever she went.”

Goldade tells The Center Square finding out the man responsible for her daughter’s death would likely have been in jail at the time if not for the pursuit restrictions, was shocking.

“That was devastating to learn, that my daughter was a victim of this law.”

The driver had broken into a landscaping business two weeks before, but police couldn’t chase him. He then returned to the same business and stole the truck.

“If they caught him two weeks before hand, he would have been in jail because he had a warrant out,” Goldade said.

On July 27, 2023, a jury found 32-year-old Terry Kohl guilty of all eight counts for Imaculee’s death and the serious injuries suffered by her friend.

Goldade said changing the law back to the way it was before, to allow police to pursue suspects means everything to her.

“I’ve been advocating for this for the last year-and-a-half and next week marks 2-and-a-half years since she was killed,” said Goldade. “It’s overwhelming that I even had to fight for this.”

Immaculee was number four of eight kids in her family and would have been 15 in August and going into high school this year.

“That hole is just literally right in the middle of my family,” said Goldade. “She will forever be a victim of the no-pursuit law.”