Cleveland police chief responds to belief city has ‘no chase policy’

CLEVELAND-- The Cleveland chief of police has a message to residents in response to the belief that officers in the city do not chase suspects.

Chief Calvin Williams issued a statement on Tuesday, saying Cleveland Division of Police officers are authorized to pursue suspects wanted to violent crimes and OVI-related offenses.

Surrounding cities have criticized Cleveland for the alleged "no chase policy," while others continue to pursue suspects at high speeds into Cleveland.

Last week, officers were furious following an incident off Easts 95th Street. On April 10, an officer reported someone fired at him and other cruisers responded to follow the suspect. On police radio recordings, a supervisors calls off the pursuit, angering an officer.

“This male shot at me. You're telling me to disengage. That what you're telling me?” the officers said on the recording.

Cleveland police said Williams' message is not in response to one specific incident.

"The current policies of the Cleveland Division of Police regarding vehicle pursuits give officers very specific guidance pertaining to when vehicle pursuits are appropriate and authorized. To be clear, vehicle pursuits are not authorized in cases of nonviolent crimes," Williams said.

"Our officers will not become engaged in vehicle pursuits solely relating to property crimes. Chasing suspects at high rates of speed in vehicles solely to recover property is not only inappropriate, but it puts the lives of our residents and our officers in danger unnecessarily."

Williams was appointed chief in February 2014, in the midst of the investigation into a high-speed chase that left two people dead.

A month after his appointment, Cleveland police announced changes to its pursuit policy that put heavy emphasis on safety.  Officers were instructed to "err on the side of caution" in any chase.

"The pursuit policies of the Cleveland Division of Police are detailed and follow best practice. The policies are in effect to protect the lives of officers and citizens alike. Taking violent offenders off of our streets is equally important and our officers shall conduct vehicle pursuits when this action is appropriate," Williams said in his statement on Tuesday.

On Nov. 29, 2012, a Cleveland officer reported hearing a gunshot from a car, resulting in a lengthy chase into East Cleveland. It lasted more than 20 minutes and involved more than 60 police cars. The pursuit ended in the parking lot of Heritage Middle School, where 13 officers fired 137 shots into the car of Timothy Russell, killing him and his passenger, Malissa Williams.

As a result of the chase, Officer Michael Brelo was charged and acquitted on manslaughter charges.