Some Cleveland City Council Members Want Looser Police Chase Rules

cleveland police car in tremont
A Cleveland Police patrol car in Tremont. Officers have to follow strict rules before pursuing a fleeing suspect. [Matthew Richmond / ideastream]

Recent arrests by Cleveland police following a string of violent crimes are prompting calls from city council members for loosening the rules for vehicle chases in the city.

Three juveniles were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of 30 counts of car theft and robbery and seven others are also suspected in the crimes, according to a statement by city officials released Wednesday.

At a Friday press conference in Tremont, where several of the carjackings occurred, Councilman and Public Safety Committee Chairman Blaine Griffin said he’d hold hearings on police pursuit policies next week.

“We’re going to ask tough questions and hard questions about the chase policy,” Griffin said. “It’s my understanding the police department can chase, but there’s too much ambiguity.

Griffin also said he’ll also ask Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost for help.

“We should have some policies that are across the board,” Griffin said. “I know that every local community likes to do their own thing, but I think there should be some regional policies. Too many police departments are crossing into each other’s borders and don't have to live by the same rules.”

Councilman Kerry McCormack, who represents Tremont, said there was a point during the string of car thefts and robberies when officers located the suspects but could not pursue them because of existing rules.

“At 10:30 in the morning, an aggravated robbery carjacking happened,” McCormack said. “Then another one, then another one, and in between those times, multiple times, the suspects, that then went on the same day to commit another one of these violent acts, they were in the line of the police officer.”

Cleveland police did not return a call for details about the decision not to engage in pursuit.

According to the city’s General Police Orders on police pursuits, officers can only chase suspects when either a violent felony has occurred or the driver is believed to be intoxicated and the danger posed by a chase is less than the potential danger posed to the public if the suspect remains at large.

The policy includes a long list of additional rules limiting police chases and was enacted in 2015, in the aftermath of the “137 shots” incident – a 60-car chase that ended with the death of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in a hail of police gunfire.

Griffin plans to call in officials from public safety and the training academy to testify before the committee, which meets Wednesday.

“The constituency of Ward 6, the sense of urgency to do something about this, is heard,” Griffin said. “The police officers, we hear you. We hear everybody that wants to make sure we give clarity when it comes to the chase policy.”

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