East Cleveland police chief says he will take another look at his pursuit policy; department has chased at least 59 suspects so far this year

Updated: Mar. 1, 2021 at 8:15 PM EST
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EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 News has learned a local police department facing questions about high-speed chase policy, will be taking another look at its pursuit policy.

This, as 19 Investigates discovered officers have engaged in two times more chases this year to date than last year.

Investigator Hannah Catlett sat down with the chief one-on-one Monday.

“Obviously, we have a lot more pursuits this year than we have prior,” East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Garnder said.

He says he’s always weighing whether his department’s pursuit policy needs changing.

“Obviously, I want it to be the best policy that there is,” he said.

Gardner talked about the number of chases his officers have engaged in recently-- at least 59 since the beginning of this year according to department data.

19 Investigates discovered that’s more than double the number of people officers had pursued at this time last year.

“That, for whatever reason, people are looking at the police as the cause. Police, in my opinion, are not the cause the cause is the person that’s running,” Gardner said.

There’s more. We discovered the data provided to us by the Chief shows that a lower percentage of those chases are getting called off this year when compared to last.

“I can’t give you any any specific reasoning. I mean, it doesn’t necessarily surprise me again, I guess it’s something that I will consider,” Gardner said.

In February, three different pursuits ended in crashes that sent other innocent drivers to the hospital.

We asked Gardner if it is worth it for people that are not involved in the chase to get hit to take the criminals into custody.

Gardner said, “I mean and again, you would have to ask the the offenders. Again, you’re placing, in my opinion. You’re placing the blame back on the police. I mean, that is what we are supposed to do in my opinion. I mean, that is what the Ohio Revised called code tells us to do.”

Chief Gardner explained that his department pursuit policy is based on state law. He says his officers can chase someone for any offense in which points could go on a driver’s license.

In neighboring Cleveland though, the policy only allows officers to pursue a suspect if they’re accused of a violent felony.

19 investigates found that East Cleveland pursuits have been initiated when people run after traffic stops related to anything from loud music to running a red light to not stopping at a stop sign.

Gardner says he could make his policy more restrictive.

“I can through policy and procedure,” he said.

As of right now, Gardner says dialing back is not the plan, but he is working to find a solution that will keep everyone in his community and beyond safe.

We’ve made requests with other departments to see how many pursuits their agencies have been involved in so far this year. When we get that data, we will share it with you.

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