Perkins Township police chase policy under review

SANDUSKY To chase or not to chase. That's the question Perkins police are exploring a
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



To chase or not to chase.

That's the question Perkins police are exploring after an April 30 car chase ended with three people hospitalized.

Twenty-six-year-old Ashley Smith was on her way home from work at Delphi when she was hit by Richard Thames and Veronica Price.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Ohio 4 and Ohio 2.

"I don't know if the chase was like extremely necessary for as long as it went because it was just shoplifting," Smith said, who has tingling in her left arm because of the accident. "I'm not upset with the officers. They were doing their jobs -- what they felt was needed."

Tuesday, Perkins Township Trustee Bill Dwelle asked for a review of the recent chase.

"Let's see what we did right," he said. "If there are some things we need to look at, let's do that."

The Perkins police pursuit driving policy says "under no circumstances will an officer engage in any type of pursuit driving when such actions would endanger other road users, pedestrians or any other persons."

The policy also states high speed chases are anything 15 mph above the posted speed limit.

The exact speed of Thames and the pursuing officers was unreported for most of the chase, but was well over 55 mph on Ohio 4. The speed limit at the scene of the accident is 50 mph.

The April 30 chase was from 4:50-5:04 p.m. Several cars were forced off the road; more than one police cruiser was damaged; and a little girl riding a bicycle was put in harm's way.

At one point the chase continued onto a cul-de-sac on Cedarbrook Lane where the suspects' vehicle almost struck the girl riding her bike.

A Perkins officer almost cornered Thames in the cul-de-sac, but realized that would endanger the little girl, so he moved his cruiser to clear the way for Thames to escape.

Perkins Police Lt. Al Matthews said several factors are taken into consideration when Perkins police are pursuing suspects including speed, their crime and the conditions of the road.

The Perkins pursuit policy states an on-station supervising officer must monitor the chase to prevent officers from becoming "too emotionally involved in a pursuit and losing their objective judgment."

Smith said the police treated her exceptionally well after the accident, but the chase on April 30 endangered her life, as well as others.

"There were just so many lives put in danger," Smith said. "That's what's just upsetting about the whole situation. Maybe they didn't have to pursue it for so long."

Smith and the two suspects who hit her were later transported to Firelands Regional Medical center and were released that evening.

Smith said Perkins officers have visited her home and personally apologized to her for her suffering.

In an interview the day after the chase, Matthews expressed regret for what happened to Smith, saying the circumstances were unfortunate, but he still believes his officers acted appropriately in their pursuit of the two suspects.

"I would say my officers did a good job," he said. "It was unfortunate about Ashley. I think it's better to fix cars than to fix bodies."

Sandusky Assistant police Chief Charlie Sams said officers are trained for pursuits, but are human and can get "emotionally involved."

"That's why you have supervision to monitor the situation. I'm not saying it does happen, but that's what supervision is for. Cops are human too, right?"

Smith and her mother have consulted an attorney since the accident to try and sort out a way to pay for her damaged car and medical bills, which are piling up.

Smith now has to be driven to work by her mother or her friends.