XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer knows police pursuits. He’s been in the chase himself earlier in his career when he was doing road duty and had to track them as a supervisor
“Do we put safety ahead of getting the bad guy? You need to,” Fischer said. “It’s not fair for a third party to be an innocent victim because of someone else.”
But those decisions aren’t easy to make.
Crimes are different, the reactions of criminals to a called off pursuit are different, and that adds to additional factors such as the crime involved as well as traffic and weather conditions.
These were all factors considered by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, whose office on Monday released recommendations for new minimum standards for police pursuits.
The standards were based off a report made in 2016 when DeWine was Ohio Attorney General. According to the release, 445 law enforcement agencies in the state have voluntarily adapted the primary standards set by the advisory board created by the AG’s office in 2016 while 52 are in the process of adopting the standards.
Fischer said his department considers multiple factors in whether to pursue a suspect. Those include:
- How violent the crime was
- How pertinent it is to catch the suspect
- Weather and traffic conditions
- Area the pursuit is taking place, such as heavy traffic areas near business districts, schools and neighborhoods
The Greene County Sheriff’s Office has been nationally accredited, which means its pursuit policy has been reviewed by experts.
Each pursuit is different, according to Fischer, who has called off chases as a supervisor and has chased suspects when he was on road duty.
While there’s an immediate danger in a pursuit of an accident, there’s also a danger if a suspect gets away and commits a crime later. There’s also no guarantee the suspect will drive less wrecklessly if the pursuit is stopped.
“We had Xenia police pursuing a suspect and the guys were called off,” Fischer said. “The car continuned to speed, went down one road and tried turning down an ajoining road when it collided with a semi-truck. (The suspect) died and the semi driver was injured. You can never tell what’s going to happen in people’s minds.”
Fischer was in a pursuit himself as a deputy and knows how difficult the situation can be for officers and deputies.
“The adrenaline is going,” Fisher said. “I specifically joined the state patrol in a pursuit and had a near-crash incident. I was sitting in the middle of the road at the time wondering, ‘Why did I do that?’ It’s so important to have a supervisor somewhere monitoring the situation.”
Technology has made it easier to catch suspects after pursuits have been stopped. Cruiser cameras make it easier to identify the vehicles involved and Fischer sees that as being the key to making those situations safer in the future.
“I would imagine there will be technology in the future that will allow law enforcement to disable cars from running away,” Fischer said.
But until then, deputies and officers will have to juggle one of the most difficult situations they face.
“If we have someone out there that’s committing crimes against people and people are getting hurt or killed, we don’t want that pattern to continune,” Fischer said. “We would chase that person. They’ve obviously shown no remorse for human life at that point and it’s a situation that would require an aprehension.