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Cleveland council members call for changes to pursuit policy after rash of carjackings

Posted at 11:58 AM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-13 09:32:33-05

CLEVELAND — Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley and council members Kerry McCormack and Blaine Griffin held a Friday briefing to discuss Cleveland police pursuit policies and the surge in carjackings.

The news conference was held at Lincoln Park in Tremont. Re-watch it in the media player below:

Cleveland council members call for changes to pursuit policy after rash of carjackings

Earlier this week, Cleveland police arrested three juveniles who allegedly carjacked dozens of drivers in Tremont, which prompted leaders to hold the press conference. Cleveland Police said "the initiative was directed by the Fourth District Violent Crimes Reduction Team and was assisted by the five neighborhood police districts, the Neighborhood Impact Community Engagement Unit, Gang Impact Unit, Canine, Aviation, and partnering law enforcement agencies."

Police said they are suspected of committing between 30 and 40 carjackings across the area. Kelley alluded that the suspects could've been caught sooner, had police been allowed to pursue the crime.

"We saw victims that were brutalized in a way that should never happen in Cleveland, Ohio, made worse by the fact that as reports came out, we learned that pursuit was not followed on these in these cases," he said. "Enough is enough. If you commit a crime in Cleveland, Ohio, you will be pursued, you will be caught and you will be prosecuted."

Cleveland Police's Chase Policy right now is that officers may initiate a vehicle pursuit when ALL of the following criteria are met:

  • The Suspect operating the vehicle refuses to stop at the officer’s direction and flees apprehension for an actual or alleged violent felony.
  • Operating a Vehicle Intoxicated (OVI).
  • The immediate danger of the pursuit is less that the immediate or potential danger to the public if the suspect remains at large and the officer is operating an authorized emergency vehicle.

Councilman Blaine Griffin, who is also on the Public Safety Committee, said they will hold a review to take a deep dive into the department's policy.

"It is my understanding that the police department can chase, but there's too much ambiguity. The officers are frustrated, the community is frustrated. We're frustrated. Business owners are frustrated," said Griffin.

Alfred Porter Jr., the president of Black on Black Crime, said the current policy should not be changed.

"It's a travesty and a danger for motorists as well as pedestrians during these car chases because high speed chases can lead to innocent bystanders getting hurt or killed," he said.

He said he was surprised to hear Friday's comments from councilmen.

"I'm still in shock by that press conference. I did not see that coming and I know a lot of citizens and others out there are buzzing the same way," he said. "I would have thought that they would have learned through the high speed police chase that killed Tamia Chapman."

Danielle Sydnor, the president of the Cleveland NAACP branch, said each scenario is different.

"It is not my my position to say if carjackings broadly warrant police to pursue," she said."I think for individuals that are saying the immediate reaction should have been some sort of pursuit and chase, which we know likely would have led to a high speed chase, I would really call on leaders to think about how we continue to encourage the leadership of our police department to use the tactics that they did later, earlier in the process and say, could we have organized the helicopter?"

Porter agrees that there are better tactics than a pursuit when there's no immediate danger if the suspect gets away, suggesting that the city should utilize surveillance cameras

"The question now becomes, are those cameras legitimately working? If they are working like the city has claimed that, what is Kevin Kelly not adding, and that he will make sure that officers, detectives and others pull out those surveillance cameras and look to see where those vehicles have gone," he said.

RELATED: 3 juveniles arrested for dozens of alleged carjackings in Tremont

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