Bellevue Deputy Mayor: Cops can’t pursue criminals in Washington State… and the criminals know it


By Jared Nieuwenhuis, Deputy Mayor, City of Bellevue.

LET Editor note: The opinions expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the entire Bellevue City Council.  But they darn well should.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that failure to enforce the law, or more precisely, preventing officers from enforcing it, results in higher crime rates.

This is exactly what has happened in King County and surrounding counties due to the flurry of police reforms, passed by the legislature, in 2021. Since those laws went into effect, there has been a massive surge in crime and gun violence across our state.

Vehicle thefts are up 99% in March 2022 compared with March of the previous year and are up 88% year-to-date, according to data compiled by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC). Between January and March of 2021, 6,692 cars were stolen in Washington.

For that same period, in 2022, 12,569 vehicles were stolen. If current trends hold, WASPC estimates car thefts could top 50,000 by the end of the year. There were 26,520 vehicles stolen in 2020 and 31,032 stolen in 2021.

Police officers are seeing a brazen and growing disregard for the law when attempting lawful stops, including those involving vehicle theft. Every single day, stories are surfacing from police officers that offenders are not stopping for routine traffic stops because the fleeing car driver knows that the police can’t chase them except under the narrowest of circumstances.

Skyrocketing thefts can be attributed to recently passed laws restricting officers’ ability to pursue suspects. During the state’s recent legislative session, Senate Bill 5919 (SB 5919) would have changed the current law, which restricts what the police can do, and would have allowed police to pursue a person based on “reasonable suspicion.” Washington State is the only state in the country that has departed from the reasonable suspicion standard.

Without this change in the standard, it is almost impossible for the police to enforce the law.

The bill failed to pass both the House and Senate in time on the final night of Washington state’s legislative session. Because of this, police officers are prohibited from pursuing individuals suspected of certain crimes.

The officers can only pursue somebody for a serious, violent offense, and it has to be approved by a supervisor. Not surprisingly, by the time a supervisor approves a pursuit, the suspect is long gone.

The legislature didn’t take into account that by not being able to pursue and arrest suspects, more victims of crime are being created as there are no consequences to their behavior.  How are we, as a society, meant to stop overt crime plaguing our community if officers can’t pursue and arrest the criminals?

The legislature should be called back for a special session to fix the anti-public safety legislation that was enacted in 2021. Law enforcement officers must have the tools they need to keep our neighborhoods safe while maintaining the legislature’s commitment to improving police accountability.

The legislature’s failure to pass SB 5919 is deeply concerning.

We cannot wait another nine months for the legislature to deal with this issue. Failure to act now will continue to make our neighborhoods less safe and add to an already sizable number of victims.

Man arrested in connection with Washington state homicide was released early after violent assault on jail deputies

SEQUIM, WA- Once again, the apparent failure of our criminal justice system has cost someone their life. According to the Peninsula Daily News in Washington, police officers in the town of Sequim were investigating a homicide after receiving a check welfare call.

Responding officers found a woman in the home who was deceased. It was then when officers discovered the suspect involved in the homicide lived in the residence, a press release said.

On Thursday, police made a routine traffic stop in Sequim at approximately 4:31 a.m. A sheriff’s deputy from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office arrived to assist the officer at about 4:37 a.m., according to Capt. Randy Plumb of the Bremerton Police Department, which is leading the investigation.

At some point during the traffic stop, the Sequim officer fired his duty weapon, Plumb said in a press release. The stop “rapidly escalated and became physical, which then led to gunshot,” according to City of Sequim attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross in a press release.

The suspect was transported to a local hospital for evaluation, and was subsequently released to police custody, Nelson-Gross said. An officer was shot during the exchange of gunfire, however, was not seriously injured. He was treated and released at a local hospital.

The suspect was identified as Bret Allen Kenney, 34, who was arrested on charges of investigation of first-degree assault of a police officer, disarming a law enforcement officer, and DUI drugs, charges levied by the Port Angeles Police Department. Kenney is a suspect in the homicide.

Now, let’s rewind the “way back” machine to 2017, when two corrections officers at the Snohomish County jail in Everett were savagely beaten inside the facility, with one officer being beaten unconscious and suffering broken bones. A second officer was punched repeatedly and struck with his own electronic stun gun, as reported at the time by the HeraldNet.

One other corrections officer, who came to the aid of the other two, was also assaulted by the inmate.

What was the inmate’s name? Bret Allen Kenney. At the time, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell wrote in court papers that Kenney had “savagely attacked” the officers, also noting that he continued to punch the two officers even as they were down on the ground.

Kenney was charged with two counts of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault in connection with the incident. The charge of second-degree assault, had he been convicted, would have carried with it a life sentence without parole under Washington’s persistent offenders’ law.

This was (obviously) not Kenney’s first offense, having been arrested regarding a 2009 robbery and another robbery in 2011. He had received a five year bid for that case, while also racking up two non-strike convictions the previous year.

According to authorities, the assault inside the jail took place at around 1:00 a.m. when Kenney was allowed outside of his cell to walk around the module. Kenney was pacing , however slowed down according to Cornell. When the deputy stopped to look at his watch, Kenney attacked him without being provoked, and “sucker punched him square in the face.”

After the deputy fell to the ground, Kenney continued to pummel him. He initially walked away, however returned and continued the assault when the deputy tried to get up.

“He again brutally attacked him with his fists and continued to do so even after it appeared that (the deputy) was not moving,” Cornell wrote.

That officer suffered injuries which included a broken nose along with other injuries.

When the second deputy came to his co-worker’s aid, Kenney accosted him on the stairs and started punching him, eventually getting him to the ground and continually punching him as he lay on the floor. During the struggle, Kenney grabbed the officer’s stun gun and clocked him with it.

In the Sequim case, Capt. Mike Davis of the Bremerton Police Department would not confirm or deny if anyone was shot in that incident, and refused to identify either the suspect or the officer who was injured.

Nelson-Gross told reporters that in the case of any officer-involved significant use of force, it is required that an independent investigative team take over the investigation.

“Once the Sequim Police Department were notified this incident met those parameters, the Kitsap Critical Incident Response Team Commander was notified,” Nelson-Gross said.

In the 2017 assault on the jail deputies, Kenney was sentenced last November to over six years in prison, HeraldNet wrote. As is typical, a change in Washington State Law made one of the previous robbery convictions ineligible to be counted toward the state’s three strikes law, which removed the possibility of life without parole.

In another clear failure of the criminal justice system, Kenney was released from jail after serving only two months to a community custody program. Laughably, prior to being sentenced for the Snohomish County incident, Kenney wrote the judge claiming he’d “learned a valuable lesson.”


For an interesting piece out of Snohomish County from a year or so back, we invite you to:


ARLINGTON, WA – A driver in a Tesla that was on “autopilot” reportedly hit a Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office patrol SUV while it was parked on the side of a road Saturday night.

The deputy was parked on the shoulder at the scene of another accident with his emergency lights flashing. The deputy exited his patrol SUV to speak with medics and firefighters when the 2015 Tesla Model S crashed into the vehicle.

There were no injuries. The driver was cited for causing or permitting the vehicle to be unlawfully operated.

The Washington State Patrol is investigating the crash and reminded people that, even if a vehicle is in “autopilot,” drivers are “still required to be paying attention to the road and ready for hazards.”

The sheriff’s office posted a statement on Facebook:

“This is a great reminder that vehicles may have autopilot to assist, but it cannot be relied upon to get you safely from one destination to the next.”

The Tesla website warns drivers that, even though the car can steer itself under normal situations, drivers are still responsible for safety:

“Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system that enhances safety and convenience behind the wheel. When used properly, Autopilot reduces your overall workload as a driver.

“Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment. While these features are designed to become more capable over time, the currently enabled features do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

There have been several crashes involving Tesla’s autopilot feature, including a fatal crash in 2018.

The fatal crash occurred when a Tesla Model X crashed into a concrete divider in California. Tesla determined that the autopilot was activated with adaptive cruise control follow-distance feature set to minimum.

Tesla said the driver took no action to avoid the crash despite a five-second view of the barrier before impact:

“The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision.”

The National Transportation Safety Board in March 2020 blamed the crash on limitations of the Autopilot system, the 38-year-old driver who was playing a phone video game at the time of the crash, and inattentiveness.

In 2019, a 50-year-old Tesla driver died after his Tesla Model 3 struck a tractor-trailer in Delray Beach, Florida, while was using Autopilot. The NTSB found that the system was a contributing factor in the crash.

Despite the crashes, Tesla argues that its vehicle features make driving safer and can save 900,00 lives. The company claims travelers will be ten times safer in an autonomous car than a non-autonomous car:

“Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents – such a standard would be impossible – but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and cyclists.

“No one knows about the accidents that didn’t happen, only the ones that did. The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe. There are about 1.25 million automotive deaths worldwide.

“If the current safety level of a Tesla vehicle were to be applied, it would mean about 900,000 lives saved per year. We expect the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars.”

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Tesla on autopilot crashes into CT State Trooper and disabled vehicle. “Driver” blames car, gets ticket anyway.

December 8, 2019


NORWALK, CT- Elon Musk has been all over the news lately with his latest vehicle release, but this time around, he and his car company are back in a not so pleasant spotlight regarding Tesla’s self-driving features.

A Tesla in Norwalk, Connecticut that was – according to the driver – engaged in autopilot mode had rear-ended a Connecticut trooper’s vehicle early Saturday morning. Luckily, no one was hurt in the crash.

According to state police, the operator of the self-driving Tesla was checking on his dog in the back seat when the vehicle crashed into the trooper’s car.

Police said they had responded to a disabled vehicle that was stopped in the middle of Interstate 95. While waiting for a tow, the self-driving Tesla came down the road.

After striking the trooper’s vehicle, the driver in the Tesla then rear-ended the disabled vehicle that the trooper was tending to, before coming to a complete stop. According to authorities:

“The operator of the Tesla continued to slowly travel northbound before being stopped several hundred feet ahead by the second trooper on scene. The operator of the Tesla stated that he had his vehicle on ‘Auto-pilot’ and explained that he was checking on his dog which was in the back seat prior to hitting the collision.”

According to police, the cruiser had also its emergency lights on at the time of the incident. The driver of the vehicle in this case was issued a misdemeanor summons for reckless driving and reckless endangerment.

Still, leaving the driving to the car could have demonstrated far worse outcomes. Officials speculated on this very notion when they stated:

“Fortunately, no one involved was seriously injured, but it is apparent that this incident could have been more severe. Regardless of your vehicle’s capabilities, when operating a vehicle your full attention is required at all times to ensure safe driving.”

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Self-driving Teslas have been a topic of scrutiny over the years since they were unveiled, and while this latest incident levied no serious injuries or fatalities, previous ones have.

In Williston, Florida, back in May of 2016, a Tesla engaged in autopilot mode crashed into an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, killing the driver of the Tesla.

An investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated the crash occurred when the tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the 2015 Tesla model S at an intersection, and the car failed to apply the brakes.

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