East Cleveland chief defends recent police chases

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EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW)– East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner admitted his officers had more pursuits in recent months, but said the chases are justified.

Since January, East Cleveland has had 60 pursuits.

“We recovered quite a few of illegal narcotics,” Gardner told the FOX 8 I-Team. “We have recovered a lot of illegal firearms.”

Several of those chases resulted in crashes in Cleveland causing innocent people to get hurt.

“I represent two young men who were seriously injured because there was a high-speed chase over a car in East Cleveland with a lack of a plate,” said attorney Tom Merriman. “My clients were no where near East Cleveland, they were in Slavic Village in Cleveland.”

The chief said many times officers do chase vehicles without a license plate.

“Around here, the indication is if you don’t have a license plate on your vehicle then most likely it’s been stolen,” Gardner said.

The I-TEAM obtained public records showing East Cleveland had about 140 pursuits last year. In that same time frame, Euclid police had 60 chases and Cleveland Heights 52.

“I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Gardner said. “I apologize that happens, but I put the blame on the suspects.”

He said he believes one of the reasons his department has seen an increase in chases is because of Cleveland’s policy on police pursuits.

“Cleveland has taken a stance where they are not going to pursue,” Gardner said. “Many of the people we arrest do not live here. Many of the suspects believe police will not chase them. My mission as chief is to attempt to bring the quality of life up for my residents and in doing so, I am taking more of a zero-tolerance policy in East Cleveland. I am attempting to combat crime head on.”

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