EAST CLEVELAND, OH — Activists met Monday with East Cleveland police asking commanders to reduce the number of police chases in hopes of preventing any more deaths or injuries.
According to East Cleveland police, officers have been involved in 138 pursuits so far this year.
That's an average of five and a half chases each week.
"We're praying we won't have a catastrophe in which we'll have to shut this whole city down because some innocent people got killed in a traffic chase walking down the street or riding down the street," said activist Art McKoy.
East Cleveland's police chief stressed that officers are only reacting to drivers who refuse to stop for police.
"Our stance is we will continue to pursue those who fail to stop for us and those who are essentially taking, in my opinion, advantage of my residents," said East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner.
The activists and police met for about an hour. At times, the activists said, the discussion got heated.
While they called it a first step, some in the group accused police of taking a hard line when it came to pursuits.
"We know about crime," said activist Al Porter, "but in this situation, do you have to take on the criminal traits to deal with crime?" If you do, then everything is unsafe all the way around."
Gardner said he'd love to cut down on the number of chases and said he's asked the mayor and city council to purchase technology that would allow officers to track cars that refuse to stop.
But in the meantime, the chief maintained that pursuing drivers has led to a reduction in crime in the city.
Gardner also said he believes a lack of action by other departments is adding to the problem.
"If there were zero pursuits I would be happy," said Gardner. "Do I feel our pursuits have risen because of other agencies refusing to pursue? Yes. Yes I do. I think that’s absolutely the prime reason."
The activists said they plan to review the department's pursuit policy and then decide their next steps.
They also hope to meet with police commanders again in about a month.