CINCINNATI — Cincinnati police will no longer engage in police pursuits with offenders who are suspected of committing misdemeanor offenses, according to a February 24 staff memo.
The change in procedure is effective immediately. Starting Feb. 24, CPD officers are only permitted to engage in a vehicle pursuit if the person fleeing is suspected of committing a "violent felony offense."
Officers in a police pursuit will also now be required to activate their body cameras while the pursuit is happening; failure to do is an equipment violation, the staff note said.
In addition, annual analyses will be done by the Planning and Inspections Section to ensure officer compliance with policies and procedures relating to pursuits.
Cincinnati police last reviewed its pursuit policy in August 2020, after a police chase that started in Cincinnati ended with a deadly crash in Newport. Raymond and Gayle Laible were killed and two other people were injured outside of Press on Monmouth as the suspect lost control of his vehicle at high speed.
That crash and other recent pursuits that ended in crashes prompted some community leaders and police officials to push for the more restrictive policy.
"I want the community of Cincinnati to be able to weigh in on how we police their city," CPD Interim-Police Chief Teresa Theetge said Wednesday during a news conference addressing the updated pursuit policy. "I think it's important for the citizens to know what we're doing, why we're doing it."
Angela Laible Endress, daughter of Ray and Gayle Laible, told the WCPO 9 I-Team that "the policy changes look great on paper, but if they're not going to follow them, that's an issue."
The CPD internal investigation of the pursuit that ended in the death of her parents found officers violated department policy. But none of the officers received a suspension. The lead officer in that pursuit, Timothy Lanter was later promoted to Lt.
"They aren't holding them accountable. That's the bottom line," Mrs. Endress said.
Since that pursuit, the two victims who were injured and family members of the Laibles have filed suit against the city of Cincinnati and CPD officers involved in the crash. The suit claims officers continued the pursuit "despite the obvious and actualized danger."
Mason Meyer is also a defendant in the lawsuit. He was driving the car pursued by police. Meyer pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to life in prison.
Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in conjunction with Cincinnati police and the Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force were conducting surveillance on Meyer in Cincinnati on Aug. 7 when Meyer drove away, according to court documents.
In 2021, three pursuits involving Cincinnati police ended in crashes that sent people to the hospital.
In February 2021, a woman was hospitalized with serious injuries after a suspect CPD was pursuing drove through an intersection and crashed into her vehicle. That pursuit happened after someone called police and reported that 32-year-old Michale Shelton had threatened them with a gun. Just before Shelton crashed, CPD pulled back because the pursuit had reached high speeds.
Ultimately, Shelton was charged with failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer and vehicular assault in connection to the pursuit and crash. He was not charged for the initial weapons-related call that brought police to the scene in the first place.
In April 2021, three people were hospitalized after CPD officers claimed they witnessed a black SUV engaged in drug activity at Eighth and Linn streets downtown. The vehicle fled when CPD attempted to initiate a traffic stop. The driver of the SUV being pursued crashed into another SUV, injuring people inside. A passenger inside the pursued vehicle was also taken to the hospital.
In that case, CPD never identified the driver pursued, nor is WCPO aware of any charges filed against him or her. CPD said at the time the driver had warrants out of Texas.
In November 2021, two teenagers driving what CPD said was a stolen vehicle crashed in University Heights while fleeing police. Officers initially attempted to stop the vehicle for a drug investigation, police said. Officers did not discover the vehicle was stolen until an investigation into the crash was launched. While fleeing officers, the driver of the stolen car drove through the intersection of Clifton Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive, crashed into another vehicle and flipped the car they were driving.
While Cincinnati police have revisited and revised their pursuit policies over the years, in 2020, following the Newport crash, the WCPO I-Team found there is no one uniform pursuit policy among other police departments throughout the Greater Cincinnati region.
Cincinnati police officials were among the leaders in trying to get all of the more than 40 Hamilton County police departments to use the same pursuit guidelines, Theetge said.
But when those efforts were not successful, Theetge said on Wednesday, CPD made the changes to their pursuit policy saying, "OK, but Cincinnati is going to be innovative. We're going to take the necessary steps to mitigate the risk involving around these pursuits."
You can read the full staff note below:
Staff note on police pursuit policy changes by WCPO 9 News on Scribd