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Majority of East Cleveland police pursuits that cross into Cleveland end in a crash

Updated: Feb. 25, 2021 at 7:57 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Are the actions of police putting innocent people at risk?

That’s one of the questions we’re asking following a weekend police chase that began with a simple traffic violation... and ended in a crash with five people hurt.

19 News investigator Hannah Catlett uncovered it’s just one of several recent pursuits involving East Cleveland Police that have landed people in the hospital.

Are the actions of police putting innocent people at risk? On Monday, 19 Investigates uncovered several recent pursuits involving East Cleveland Police have landed people in the hospital.

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Thursday, February 25, 2021

We showed you this dramatic body camera footage from Friday when the latest East Cleveland police chase ended in a crash.

Police say five people were injured in the crash at East 79th Street and Superior Avenue.

It happened as East Cleveland Police were chasing a car officers say failed to stop at a stop sign.

Rodrigo Rodriguez was injured in a crash with a suspect East Cleveland Police chased on Feb. 13.

“They had to pick me up and carry me away from the vehicle because it was on fire,” he said.

His mom then said, “What is it going to take for this to stop?”

We discovered East Cleveland police didn’t chase anyone for at least three days after the Feb. 19 crash.

That’s unique, considering data we obtained shows that in the 53 days we’ve had so far this year, East Cleveland officers engaged in 49 chases.

According to Cleveland Police, 10of those chases have come across city lines into Cleveland.

Nine of the ten pursuits ended in a crash.

Other drivers were hit in at least three of the cases.

There’s been an increasing call to stop or limit police chases in both cities since 12-year-old Tamia Chapman was killed by a chase suspect in 2019.

But as we discovered, cities don’t all play by the same rules.

In Cleveland, supervisors are only allowed to approve a police pursuit if a suspect is accused of a violent felony crime.

East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner sent us a copy of his department’s policy, which says his officers can chase someone for any offense that could lead to points on a driver’s license.

That would include things like speeding, and not stopping at a stop sign like in the last incident.

Gardner declined to speak with 19 Investigates on Monday, but he said in an email that he has not directed chases to be handled any differently since the most recent crashes that injured other drivers.

We did an interview with Gardner in January where he addressed chase policy.

He said, “It’s an effective tool. You simply cannot in my opinion stop chasing someone. To simply stop chasing suspects, I think, would put everyone in peril.”

Gardner says each chase goes through a review process, but he’s unsure how far along the most recent pursuits are in the process and whether any recommendations have been made from them.

We reached out to the City of Cleveland to see whether officials have an objection to East Cleveland police pursuing people across city lines. We have not gotten a response.

We also asked for an update on those injured in Friday’s chase. We have not heard back on that either.

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