CINCINNATI -- Police specialist Jerry Enneking can't count the close calls he's had on the side of the road, but he can count the times he's been hit on the job: Three.
The first time was in 2003, when dashcam footage captured a car that slammed into Enneking and sent him flying over the hood of his cruiser in the middle of an arrest. Nine months after he recovered and returned to work, he was hit again -- and then, in 2012, another driver struck and crushed his pulled-over cruiser to bits.
"I'm still on medication," Enneking said. "Still feel it every day. It sticks with you -- if not in your head, you have the physical reminders as well."
Despite the pain he continues to experience, Enneking is lucky. Many other police and emergency workers don't survive one hit on the side of the road, let alone three. Officer Gary Weber, now memorialized alongside other officers at the Cincinnati Police Memorial across from CPD District One, was thrown 40 feet when a car struck and killed him on River Road in 1982.
This shouldn't happen. Ohio law requires drivers to protect public workers and police by moving over when they see flashing lights on the side of the road, avoiding any possible collision by putting physical distance between themselves and the lights.
These strikes continue nevertheless, and Ohio lawmakers hope to increase the legal penalties for drivers who strike public workers. Currently, doing so is a fourth degree misdemeanor; State Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) and her colleagues are preparing to propose legislation that would make it a first degree misdemeanor with a possible sentence of six months in prison.
“Just as the fearless men and women of Ohio’s police force keep us and our communities safe every day, we must do our part to ensure their safety in the line of duty,” Kelly said in a news release. “Strengthening Ohio’s ‘Move Over’ law is one way we can help ensure our officers make it home to their families each night, in addition to making us all safer on Ohio’s roads and highways.”
Ohio Fraternal Order of Police president Jay McDonald supports the proposal and has sent letters to local law enforcement asking officers to actively enforce this law more often.
"We've been in a lot of hard fights," McDonald said at a news conference Wednesday. "This doesn't seem to me like it should be one."