BATH TOWNSHIP, OH (WOIO) - A change in a Ohio law that took effect this week is handcuffing Ohio's township police departments, especially Bath Township.
Chief Michael McNeely explained, "The change effectively has eliminated township police from having any traffic enforcement authority on the Interstate system in Ohio." House Bill 378 forced Bath Township Police Chief Michael McNeely to re-write his department's policy on what officers can and can't do.
The changes are major. "If there is a traffic crash we can't go to investigate because we can't issue citations any longer," said Chief McNeely.
Last year, Bath officers responded 97 times to the 10 miles of interstate in the township. Now if there is a crash, they can give first aid and direct traffic but officers are mandated to call the highway patrol or county sheriff to investigate the crash.
A perfect example was Friday's snow. The Chief fears when there are multiple weather related crashes, the patrol and sheriff could become overwhelmed with calls saying, "It's gonna delay people traveling to Cleveland for work and my biggest fear is it effects the economy, it effects peoples jobs. That's gonna be the downside of this."
Township police can still arrest for non-traffic crimes. A drug deal or assault at a rest area, for example, and in violent cases, police can arrest on the highway for the crime but not traffic, according to the Chief. "We can still respond to criminal acts on the interstate, so if you have a road rage where a gentleman points a gun at another driver we can respond to that and we can arrest for that."
Township police always had only limited authority on the highway and never could cite for speeding, but could stop a drunk driver or wrong way driver. Chief McNeely says, "effective today, we cannot even do that." It makes the Chief wonder about the motivation. It is hard to disagree with him.