Troy police’s pursuit of a driver who later killed an innocent third party on Monday appears to conflict with recommendations made by the Ohio attorney general’s advisory group late last year.
Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a report in November to Ohio’s nearly 1,000 law enforcement agencies with a list of “best practices” of when and how to pursue.
Under the initiation of pursuit procedures, the advisory group’s report states, “the policy should distinguish violent felonies and property offenses, or OVIs and traffic violations.”
The first factor listed as one to consider is seriousness of the offense: “For example, property crimes such as theft and stolen vehicles may not be worth the risk created by a vehicle pursuit.”
DeWine said he did not have all the facts to judge this week’s deadly pursuit.
“One critical fact would be was this guy and his car a danger to the public if they pull back, if they pull out of the pursuit, or if they never started the pursuit,” DeWine said. “That’s the question. I don’t know the answer to that.”
The 16-page report from DeWine’s Advisory Group on Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuits was spurred by a Huber Heights chase the ended with the death of a third-party driver.
“The hope is that every department has looked at this thing,” DeWine told this news organization. “We try to have their procedures follow what was recommended here.”
German Twp. police Chief Joseph Andzik was a member of the advisory group.
“The Attorney General’s point of view, in my opinion, is that he doesn’t want people dying as a result of police trying to stop people,” said Andzik, whose department only chases for violent felonies.
Troy police pursued a stolen Ford F-250 for most of the 25-plus miles they say Jordan Harville drove before the pickup struck the vehicle driven by 28-year-old Anthony Hufford of Englewood, who died at the scene of blunt force injuries.
Harville had his bond set at $75,000 on Tuesday in Miami County Municipal Court. Harville has a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 4.
The pursuit ended on North Dixie Drive in Harrison Twp. Harville is in Miami County Jail and has been charged so far with theft, a fourth-degree felony. Other charges related to the chase and crash are pending.
Troy police put out a short press release Tuesday saying an administrative review would be done and that it would be “premature to comment on the pursuit” until then. Troy police didn’t return a message seeking comment on Wednesday. Neither did the Miami County Sheriff’s Office.
Tipp City police joined the pursuit and when Troy terminated it, the lead Tipp City cruiser kept going because radio interference did not allow the officer to get the message that he should quit chasing, Tipp City police Chief Eric Burris said.
An Ohio State Highway Patrol lieutenant said troopers were en route to intercept the pursuit but that it ended before troopers were in position.
The guidelines in the report are recommendations, and DeWine admits he has no power to enact them.
“The legislature would have to pass a law,” DeWine said. “I don’t know any other way that you’d actually implement this and make it a mandate.”
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office protocol states deputies only pursue if the suspect’s offense is a “felony involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm.”
Last year, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said he often saw other agencies pursue through Harrison Twp. “Here, we try to do our best to protect the citizens,” Plummer said then. “Because it isn’t worth killing you and your family over chasing some idiot … tomorrow’s another day.”
Asked if anything has changed with police pursuits in Ohio after the advisory group’s finding, DeWine said: “The answer is I don’t know because I don’t know what every department is doing.”
The attorney general said Ohio’s local police agencies act without state oversight.
“So, no, they don’t report to me,” DeWine said. “My job basically is to assist the police on a number of different areas. We really kind of got out of our lane a little bit when we put this group together, but I felt strongly about it that we really need to look at this.”
Burris said he’d vaguely heard of the report but that he hadn’t read it. He said his officers are supposed to constantly re-evaluate pursuits and that two felonies — a stolen vehicle and not stopping for police officers — did not go against their pursuit policy.
“You’re going to have those officers statewide and organizations that are going to go, ‘Well, obviously, something was wrong if (a driver) ran,’ ” Andzik said. “But what we’ve seen here in the state of Ohio is, when we start chasing people for those things, they run into a congested area and hit a pedestrian, cause another car crash at an intersection and it’s costing people lives.”
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