Gov. Mike DeWine has made a good call by ordering a review of Ohio’s police pursuit policies, with the goal of coming up with a minimum standard for the entire state.
Doing so could save lives.
Ohio law requires police agencies to adopt policies on pursuits, but they can vary from department to department, something that can complicate a chase that crosses jurisdictional lines.
Police chases are one of the most dangerous encounters that officers engage in and each year, thousands occur across the country.
While most end without a major incident, others result in property damage, serious injury or death to suspects, innocent bystanders, and even police.
At least 13,100 people were killed in pursuits from 1979 through 2017, an average of 336 deaths a year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Association data.
In Ohio, at least 352 people, including one officer and 147 bystanders, were killed in pursuits between 1982 and 2014.
Deadly chases occasionally occur in this area, including one that ended in a fiery crash on Blanchard Avenue in Findlay in November.
The driver of a car suspected of speeding and being impaired fled a state trooper at speeds of nearly 100 mph before losing control and crashing into a power pole. He died at the scene; his passenger several days later.
Pursuits are a major public concern and policies are ripe for review.
DeWine’s call for action was directed to Ohio’s Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board. It has established seven different standards, including for use of force, use of deadly force, recruitment and hiring, and for body cameras, since it was formed under Gov. John Kasich in 2014.
The board issued a report on pursuits in 2016, but will now be tasked with developing a minimum standard for pursuits that will serve as a baseline for all police agencies.
In Ohio, 445 police agencies, including the Findlay Police Department, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and the State Highway Patrol, are accredited by the board for adopting the previously issued standards.
A officer’s decision to give chase or consider other alternatives, like following a suspect at a safe speed and distance, or not even pursuing a suspect at all, can be a tough call that must often be made in minutes, if not seconds.
A one-size-fits-all pursuit policy will never work in a state as diverse as Ohio. But having a baseline standard to guide that policy will provide needed consistency and help reduce the number of chases that end badly.