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Fewer police pursuits happening in a Cleveland suburb known for its aggressive chases

Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 10:13 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - One year ago, Investigator Hannah Catlett sat down with the East Cleveland Police Department’s chief to discuss his pursuit policy.

We went to him after a handful of innocent drivers were injured during chases.

Now, 19 Investigates has new data and dug into what’s changed.

Running a red light, expired tags, and no headlights are a few of the reasons East Cleveland Police officers gave for initiating traffic stops this year.

The department gave us a list of cases in which the driver took off from police and officers pursued.

There were 28 chases on record as of Feb. 15.

But, those numbers are down significantly from the 47 suspects east Cleveland police had pursued at the same time last year-- chases that were ending in crashes left and right.

“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,” Chief Scott Gardner said on March 1, 2021 when we interviewed him.

Three different pursuits had just ended in crashes that sent innocent drivers to the hospital when we talked to Gardner.

At the time, Gardner told us in order to keep bystanders safer, he would consider changes to the chase policy.

“It’s actually the Ohio Revised Code. I mean the Senators are the one that came up with the logistics of what can be pursued what can’t be pursued,” he said.

19 Investigates pointed out he could dial that back. T

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

The East Cleveland Police Department averaged about 30 chases in each of the first two months of last year.

In the 10 months after we talked to the chief, data shows that average dropped to about 19 chases per month.

The chief tells us he never made major changes to the pursuit policy.

This week in an email, Gardner said, “The only reason I can cite for a decrease is the continued coverage that we will pursue.”

For context, East Cleveland is still chasing a lot of suspects comparatively.

We reached out to surrounding cities about how many pursuits their officers have engaged in this year.

Rocky River Police say they initiated one and assisted in one other.

Newburg Height has not engaged in any pursuits.

And, Parma Police say so far this year, officers have chased 20 suspects.

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