DeWine: ‘Far too often, people are killed’ when drivers flee police

As Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine was concerned about innocent people’s deaths during law enforcement vehicle pursuits after reading about fatalities in the Dayton Daily News. Now, as governor, DeWine is calling for minimum state standards for chasing those who flee.

DeWine on Monday asked the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board to develop standards when officers should and should not chase suspects. That would go beyond the best practices recommended by the advisory group DeWine formed in 2016.

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Far too often, people are killed or seriously injured because a driver chooses to flee from police,” DeWine said. “I believe a minimum standard for law enforcement vehicular pursuits would help encourage a consistent approach to pursuits, which would be beneficial in instances where pursuits cross jurisdictional lines and could ultimately help save lives.”

German Twp. police Chief Joseph Andzik was on DeWine’s advisory board in 2016 and said some departments used to not have any formal pursuit guidelines.

“If you’re in this business, in the law enforcement business, you should have something written down that the officers can follow,” said Andzik, who thought there may be some push back from some areas to any state standards.

“When we first had a pursuit policy, it was you can pursue for anything that puts points on somebody’ license,” Andzik said. “So that means speed … reckless op(eration), you could pursue them. Now, we’re to the point where we only pursue for violent felonies. So, it’s changed a great deal in the past 20 years for us, alone.”

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DeWine appointed Ohio Dept. of Public Safety Assistant Director Karen Huey the chair of the advisory board. DeWine appointed former Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, now a state representative, to the board.

Plummer had changed the sheriff’s office’s standards to limit pursuits and was critical of other agencies who did not follow suit.

“It’s kind of like spilled milk. It’s all over the place,” Plummer said Monday, as quoted in the Columbus Dispatch. “We’re trying to reel it back in so we’re all on the same page. So many jurisdictions have so many different pursuit policies, we would like something standard so that if you are chasing someone through our community, we know whether to chase or not.”

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Andzik said different departments have different terminology, with terminating a pursuit meaning discontinuing the chase in some places and meaning intervention in others.

Andzik said some departments will try a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver when officers try to bump the back of a suspect vehicle so it spins and “they just kind of assist them all the way around.”

A press release said the Ohio Collaborative is a multidisciplinary group consisting of law enforcement, elected officials, academia and faith-based community.

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The group formed in 2015 to improve the relationship between Ohio’s law enforcement agencies and the diverse communities they serve.

The release said 445 Ohio law enforcement agencies adopted and 52 more are set to adopt primary standards set by the collaborative, which define circumstances for use of force and deadly force and promote equal employment and non-discrimination.

Andzik said the 2016 advisory group didn’t make policy recommendations, but that he pays attention to any police pursuits that result in fatalities.

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“I always like the details. And part of it is because I think that maybe I can learn from it as a police chief,” he said. “Was it a policy failure? Or was it an officer’s interpretation of the policy, was that the failure? Or was everything followed and it just happened?”

Andzik said he wants to know who will oversee pursuit policies.

“Who’s going to be over that? Is it the AG that’s going to check into that?” he said. “Who does it fall under to make sure that everybody’s got a policy and that they’re following up?”

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