Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Police

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Police

Kent Police chief pleased with changes to allow more vehicle pursuits

Rafael Padilla calls new law that takes effect June 6 ‘an essential tool to combat crime’

With the new state law allowing more police vehicle pursuits starting Thursday, June 6, Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla says he is “pleased that an essential tool to combat crime has been restored.”

The state Legislature earlier this year approved citizen-led Initiative 2113 to restore police pursuits that had been limited by the Legislature in 2021. Basically, officers needed probable cause to arrest someone before initiating a pursuit rather than reasonable suspicion. The law was adopted with an intent to reduce the number of police pursuits that result in injuries or even death.

“I am pleased that an essential tool to combat crime has been restored,” Padilla said in a statement posted on the Kent Police Facebook account. “While I am in strong support of providing our officers the best ability to do their job, I want to assure the community that we will continue to exercise restraint, ensuring we do what we can to minimize the risk posed to the community.

“KPD policy and practice requires a disciplined approach to vehicle pursuits, in which we terminate pursuits when the risk of the pursuit outweighs the need to apprehend the offender. That hasn’t changed.”

Padilla, in a 2023 report to the Kent City Council about pursuit laws, said the news reports about trucks smashing into buildings and people stealing items from inside were an example of when officers could not pursue.

Officers could still pursue for violent crimes, sex crimes and intoxicated driving.

Padilla said other changes about pursuits have been made in recent years.

“We have elevated our training, upgraded our tools and equipment and improved our ability to monitor and regulate pursuits,” Padilla said. “We also continually seek advancements in pursuit intervention technology.”

Padilla thanked the community for its help in restoring pursuits.

“We will continually work to live up to the authority you have granted us,” he said.

Padilla also had a message for people who break laws and try to flee.

“The free pass to commit crime has been revoked and I want you to know that KPD will be relentless in our efforts to bring you to justice,” he said.

Kent case led to stricter laws

The city of Kent paid $4.4 million in 2021 to the family of Giovonn Joseph-McDade to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed after a police pursuit.

Sonia Joseph, the mother of Joseph-McDade, helped lead the movement to adopt stricter pursuit laws after her son died following a pursuit.

Joseph-McDade, 20, died on June 24, 2017 after a short pursuit by Kent Police. Police observed him driving a vehicle with expired registration and began to chase him after Joseph-McDade didn’t pull over.

At the end of the chase, Officer William Davis claimed that Joseph-McDade tried to run him over, so he fired at him on a residential cul-de-sac near Canterbury Park at 99th Avenue South and South 244th Street. Joseph-McDade died from multiple gunshot wounds in his car that ended up in the park just down the road.

The parents of Joseph-McDade filed a civil rights lawsuit in May 2020 in U.S. District Court in Seattle against the city of Kent and the Kent Police Department alleging officers wrongfully killed Joseph-McDade. The case was scheduled to go to trial, but the city of Kent reached out to the Joseph family to settle.

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