'The data shows it is saving lives': WA Coalition for Police Accountability stands firm on police pursuit data
SEATTLE - Data examining Washington's police pursuit law that went into effect in 2021 has come under scrutiny but the person who helped craft it says it shows HB 1054 is working as it intended.
"The initial picture we're getting from the data is that in the year and a half the policy was changed, there's been a dramatic reduction in the people killed during police pursuits," said Dr. Martina Morris.
Though Morris retired from teaching at the University of Washington, she says she felt she needed to analyze police data after watching what happened to the country in 2015.
"I got up off the couch in 2015 once I saw what happened in Ferguson. I've been seeing discussions of the toll of police violence and the disproportionate toll of police violence on black and brown communities," said Dr. Morris.
As a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability , Dr. Morris analyzed news reports and data from the Fatal Encounters database to produce these findings here.
The organization sent this statement to FOX 13:
"Law enforcement has known for a long time that pursuits are dangerous. HB 1054 is common sense and had two goals - address racial profiling and reduce overall fatalities. The data shows it is saving lives."
Morris' findings have come under fire. Critics say her numbers are inflated.
This week, her website which shows data looking at people killed in active vehicle pursuits before and after HB 1054 went into effect, dropped from 73% to 67%.
Morris says one of the cases was reclassified after an independent review but that the reclassification doesn't discount the rest of the data, which she says shows the law still saved lives.
"Every one of the cases that I have is backed up by evidence, so it's not an inflation, it's a person," said Morris.
The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability released these graphics explaining their data and examples of cases in their data on Saturday night.
Morris says government databases undercount deaths that occur when police engage in pursuits.
A study by UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation compared a federal database to open-source databases on police violence and it says more than 50% of deaths attributable to police violence were not recorded.
Morris says Washington's police pursuit reform law from 2021 has improved public safety and believes more data is out there to give a bigger picture.
"I've only shown you the tip of the iceberg in terms of that collateral damage. We need to know what the rest looks like and law enforcement has those data available," said Dr. Morris.
She says data looking at risks and benefits of police pursuits should be brought to the table to have a rational discussion about what a model policy should be.
"I think that's exactly the kind of discussion we need to have before we make a quick decision to roll back a policy that seems to actually be working in terms of reducing fatalities, said Morris.
"So part of what I'd like to suggest is we need to talk about all data, not just my data."