CINCINNATI -- Are Cincinnati police officers allowed to chase after drunk drivers?
That’s a question some officers might be asking themselves after a new pursuit procedure report was distributed to them on Thursday.
The I-Team obtained a copy of the memo that outlines the changes to the "Emergency Operation of Police Vehicles And Pursuit Driving" procedure.
Interim Police Chief Paul Humphries clarified in the report that pursuits are authorized only for crimes, not traffic violations. That means officers are not allowed to pursue drunk drivers or motorists who are driving recklessly.
“Operating a vehicle under the influence, driving under suspension and reckless operation are traffic offenses. Pursuit for these offenses is a violation of procedure,” the procedure reads.
The changes are highlighted in the memo (http://ow.ly/or4w6 ). Some of the changes articulated in the document are:
1. On-sight pursuit of criminal misdemeanor violations is permitted.
2. Officers are permitted to pursue a suspect vehicle when there is reasonable suspicion the occupants of a suspect vehicle have committed a criminal misdemeanor offense.
3. Pursuit is permitted when a criminal warrant/capias is on file and the officer confirms the criminal warrant/capias through the Mobile Data Computer (MDC) or with the dispatcher prior to initiating a pursuit.
4. Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI), Driving Under Suspension (DUS) and Reckless Operation are traffic only offenses. Pursuit for these offenses alone is a violation of procedure.
The new procedure does have a few gray areas. For instance, fleeing and eluding police is in itself a crime in Ohio, so that can serve as the justification that authorizes a chase.
Depending on the circumstances, such crimes can be either misdemeanors or felonies.
Bottom line, in order for a pursuit to be allowable, a driver has to: commit a crime in the officer's presence; be suspected of a crime; or has to have a criminal warrant (and only after that's been confirmed by dispatch).
Otherwise, no chase can be initiated.
All changes are effective immediately, according to the memo.