A last-minute debate on police pursuits gets us halfway toward a fix

Bill doesn’t go far enough – reckless driving, vehicle theft are excluded

Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Chris Gildon’s subscribers March 10, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Gildon’s e-newsletters, click here.


See my speech on Senate Bill 5352 by clicking here. I offered an amendment that would have made the bill stronger, by allowing police to pursue motorists for reckless driving violations. Sadly, the amendment was defeated. Had this rule been in place last week, we might have been able to prevent a tragic accident that took place in Sunnyside that claimed the lives of two children, ages six and eight.


Dear friends and neighbors,

On Wednesday, in a very uncommon move, the Senate pulled a bill directly from the policy committee to a vote on the Senate floor. The bill is a partial fix to our police pursuit law, which is an absolute disaster.

Until 2021, Washington followed national norms which allow police to give chase whenever they have “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity. This could include anything from pursuing a stolen vehicle to trying to stop someone who is driving recklessly.

Two years ago, the Legislature passed a controversial bill that required the higher standard of “probable cause” to allow law enforcement to give chase. I think we can all see very clearly how that has worked out. Crime has boomed as awareness of these restrictions spread across the criminal element in our state. The State Patrol tells us auto thefts are up 50 percent, from 30,000 to 45,000 annually. Additionally, the number of lawbreakers who are simply driving away from law enforcement has absolutely skyrocketed. One Puyallup police officer recently encountered two of these drive-aways in a single day.

So, as I’ve said from the beginning, this law must be amended, and I’ve been working very hard to make that happen.

On Wednesday all our collective work paid off and we were able to bring a bill most people thought was no longer viable directly for a vote. The bill does not allow pursuit for reckless driving, vehicle theft, or other non-violent offenses. It does allow pursuit for vehicular assault and certain domestic violent crimes. The bill is, in my opinion, wholly insufficient and still absolutely necessary.

In the end, it received bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. Some Republicans felt it was too soft to support and some Democrats felt it went too far.  I felt it was necessary to support the bill, even though it is currently a modest change. Improvement in this area, even if incremental, is important.

The bill is now available for consideration in the House of Representatives and the debate is far from over.


‘Baby court’ is success story that helps keep families together

Offers chance to distribute ‘first bill’ gifts on Senate floor, two years late

To see video, click here.

Two years ago, my first bill, fondly known as the “Baby Court” bill, passed the Senate. There’s a tradition that you bring a gift to all in attendance when your first bill is passed.  Since it is hard to imagine anything that says ‘Puyallup’ better than a Fisher fair scone, I told my fellow legislators that I would deliver them as my gift. However, due to COVID and the virtual nature of the last two sessions, I couldn’t deliver on my promise until last week.  Thanks to my legislative aide, Caylin Jensen, for picking them up. They were enjoyed by all- even if two years late!

In short, SB 5331 created a therapeutic court for families involved in, or at risk of becoming involved in the child-welfare system. It is meant to help keep families together. I recently had a conversation with Judge Clarence Henderson of the Pierce County Superior Court. He is one of the judges working in these Baby Courts and I hope you’ll enjoy this short video where he speaks about how the program is working.

Thanks for reading — it is an honor serving you!


Sen. Chris Gildon, 25th Legislative District

Deputy Leader, Senate Republican Caucus


Contact me!

PHONE: (360) 786-7648

E-MAIL: Chris.Gildon@leg.wa.gov

MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 40425/ Olympia, WA  98504


NOTE: Written communications are subject to disclosure under the Washington Public Records Act.