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Calls for change after East Cleveland police involved in 51 chases this year

Chief calls for unified chase policy across the county
East Cleveland police pursuit crash
Posted at 5:53 PM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 18:58:04-04

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — There are renewed calls for change after newly-released figures show East Cleveland police have been involved in 51 pursuits in the last 54 days.

Activists and community members said Friday that in too many cases, innocent people are being injured or killed in police pursuits.

"We understand about police work, but these damn chases have got to stop man," said longtime activist Art McKoy.

East Cleveland City Councilwoman Juanita Gowdy issued a travel advisory Friday, warning drivers to be alert "due to the high number of Police chases that have resulted in crashes in the City of East Cleveland over the past several weeks."

RELATED: Councilwoman issues travel advisory for East Cleveland citing 'high number of police chases'

"No, they're not justified," said Gowdy. "They need to be accountable for chasing people."

Gowdy sponsored a recent ordinance that would ban police from chasing people unless there was a warrant for their arrest.

"You're supposed to protect the citizens, not harm them," said Gowdy.

But East Cleveland's police chief believes that law is unenforceable and said police shouldn't bear the brunt of the blame for the problem.

"The fact of the matter is, the blame seems to be placed on the law enforcement agencies, when, in fact, we are simply reacting to what the criminal is doing," said Chief Scott Gardner.

The chief believes stopping chases sends the wrong message to criminals.

He points to department figures showing 13 illegal guns were recovered following the recent pursuits.

"By simply allowing people to run from you at any point that they don't want to be arrested, nobody's going to stop," said Gardner. "So why even have police?"

Gardner believes the key to reducing police chases is for either the state or county to come up with a unified pursuit policy instead of a patchwork of policies that can vary from city to city.

"We have agencies that border and surround me that chose not to pursue," said Gardner, "which gives credence and credibility to criminals that, simply, if they don't want to be arrested, we are simply going to run from you."

Activist McKoy joined the call for a collective solution, in hopes of figuring out a way to stop criminals while protecting innocent drivers and bystanders.

"Let's get rid of the excuses and let's get down to the nitty-gritty on how best we can take care of police work and protect the people at the same time," said McKoy.

RELATED: View News 5 coverage of some of the recent East Cleveland police pursuits below.

Car stolen at gunpoint in Fairview Park crashes into East Cleveland cruiser after pursuit

5 hospitalized after East Cleveland police pursuit results in crash

East Cleveland police involved in another pursuit hours after one ends in fatal crash

2 arrested, several people hurt after car crashes fleeing from East Cleveland police