On March 22, a woman in the 22900 block of 15th Ave SE flagged down a Bothell Police officer. The woman had just witnessed a catalytic-converter theft. She could describe the suspect and his vehicle (an older model, Black BMW) with great detail.
The officer quickly located the suspect vehicle, and attempted to pull over the driver. But the suspect refused to stop. He raced to the southbound I-405 onramp, and sped away.
The Bothell Police officer, bound by state law and department policy, could not pursue the suspect.
Frustrating? Yes. To be so close to a suspected catalytic converter thief and not able to arrest him – is incredibly frustrating. It’s frustrating for officers, and often baffling for crime victims.
Officer Makayla Phillips found herself in a strikingly similar situation, a few weeks earlier. Listen Officer Phillips' description of what happened. Because catalytic-converter theft is not a violent crime, officers could not pursue the fleeing suspect.
More community members are asking Bothell Police to explain the 2021 state law and new, stricter limits on police pursuit.
HB 1054 was signed into law in May, 2021. It took effect in August.
While Bothell Police policy already limited high-speed pursuit because of potential danger to the public, HB 1054 is much more restrictive. It states:
A peace officer may not engage in a vehicular pursuit, unless:
• there is probable cause to believe that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense, sex offense or an escape offense, or there is reasonable suspicion that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a driving under the influence offense; [and]
• the pursuit is necessary for the purpose of identifying or apprehending the person; and the person poses an imminent threat to the safety of others and the safety risks of failing to apprehend or identify the person are considered to be greater than the safety risks associated with the vehicular pursuit under the circumstances.
You can read the entire legislation on the Washington legislature website.
If Police Officers Can’t Pursue – What Good are Witnesses?
Witnesses are actually more important than ever; See something suspicious, say something - right away.
You can help solve crimes and catch criminals by calling 911 immediately when you spot suspicious activity.
Here’s proof: Listen to Officer Farr explain what happened in another recent property-theft case. Even though two Bothell Police officers were unable to pursue fleeing suspects– they still managed to arrest both that same morning, thanks to alert witnesses who quickly called 911.
Questions? Comments? Please let us know!