Internal Columbus police records raise questions about pursuits by sheriff's office


High-speed chases make for great TV, but tragic real-life consequences.

Now there are questions about the safety of the actions of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.

The people raising those questions are fellow law enforcement officers.

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The January 25 pursuit was captured on Franklin County Sheriff's office cruiser camera video.

Speeds quickly climbed into the triple-digits: 105 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone, then 108 miles per hour.

The chase blew through traffic lights and intersections, weaving in and out of oncoming traffic.

As a school bus approaches, the deputy backs off, only to be rammed by an Obetz officer also in pursuit.

Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin hasn't seen the video, but we recapped it for him.

Glenn McEntyre: "Those details and this on its face, does that concern you or raise any red flags for you?"
Sheriff Baldwin: "Every pursuit raises red flags. Every one you want to go back and review and make sure we did things the right way. That on its face alone? No more concern than all of them. They all raise concern."

So what began this triple-digit-speed pursuit in and out of mid-morning traffic? A suspected stolen vehicle.

Glenn McEntyre: "To a lay person, it looked incredibly dangerous."
Sheriff Baldwin: "What you're describing sounds like every pursuit recorded on tv. Almost every one are like that. That's why pursuits are so dangerous, and why you want to have good oversight. Because the driver obeys no rules."
Glenn McEntyre: "Since they're so dangerous, why do it for a stolen car?"
Sheriff Baldwin: "You don't do it for a stolen car, you do it to figure out why the person ran."

According to their policy, Columbus police would not have chased this driver.

"Lower-risk felonies, we're not going to get involved in a pursuit," said Columbus Police Sergeant Chantay Boxill. "We're going to get what we can get through all of the other evidence and still pursue that suspect. But not in a vehicle."

Boxill spoke to 10TV about CPD's restrictive pursuit policy and the reasons for it.

"It's safety over everything. We will get the bad guy. But we don't want to harm anyone else in that pursuit. Because it does no good if we cause harm to someone who is standing on the side of the street, or just coming through an intersection who doesn't hear the sirens."

Boxill didn't comment on the sheriff's office pursuit policy. But others in CPD's chain of command did.

They say the January 25 chase was not an isolated case.

"They don't have a strong enough pursuit policy," said one. "They chase everything. And if they're coming into the city more, that creates a danger within the city of Columbus."

In an internal email obtained by 10tv, another officer writes, "We are seeing more and more activity from the county...they seem to play by a complete different set of rules than we do. I've seen them driving (lights and sirens) for a (no driver's license offense)."

A third officer said, "if you're chasing a bunch of cars that don't need chased, they're going to get somebody killed.

Columbus police body camera video showed the frantic moments just after a pursuit and crash in December:

A smashed car against a home on James Road.

Officers work desperately to rescue two toddlers from the back seat.

The children would be physically fine.

Their mother and uncle, who was driving the car, both died.

The sheriff's office says this crash started with a traffic stop for speeding- 62 in a 45.

As the deputy walked up to the BMW, the driver sped off.

The deputy pursued, reporting speeds of 90 miles per hour on James Road.

At that point, investigators say, the deputy pulled back.

The BMW rolled out of control.

Sheriff Baldwin: "I can tell you that I've reviewed the tapes numerous times, and that pursuit, in my opinion, the person that fled went so fast and so far, that the actions of our deputy didn't really matter a whole lot. the car got so far ahead."
Glenn McEntyre: "Those circumstances, this outcome, and what started this, does that give you any pause?"
Sheriff Baldwin: "Oh a great deal. Any time somebody gets injured or killed out of a pursuit, whether or not they're the suspect or victim, it causes great concern for any of us in management in law enforcement. We don't want anyone to get injured. That's not why we pursue people."

The woman who lives in the home the BMW landed against asked not to be identified.

She was woken by the crash, and says she opened her front door to see two bodies in her driveway.

"I just don't understand why they decided that was worth the pursuit, and the end that occurred. Do you really think it was worth that?" she said. "I think the driver made a mistake, but I think that the police officers made a mistake as well."

Glenn McEntyre: "Is she wrong?"
Sheriff Baldwin: "I can't talk to that particular case. This is still under investigation. So to start trying to second-guess or make comments about the actions of anybody at the scene there, that would not be proper on my part. But to place blame on law enforcement personnel that are trying just to do their job, part of it is to pull over violators, issue citations or warnings, whichever, and when that driver flees, to try to go ahead and make an apprehension, is their duty. And so to say they're wrong simply by doing that, if they're following their policy I think they're doing the right thing."

Baldwin says the only difference between his and the Columbus police pursuit policy is the level of offense required to initiate a chase.

He says his policy is based on the safety of conditions and surroundings at the time- not on the seriousness of the crime.

He also says just like the CPD, his pursuits are managed in real time by a supervisor, and when they are deemed too dangerous, they are terminated.

But this is not the end of this story.

Columbus police have other concerns with the sheriff's office.

High-ranking Columbus police Officers say one reason they're so concerned about the county's pursuit policy is they believe the county is pursuing more runs inside the city.

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