Not infrequently, I’ll be driving down the interstate and watch a police cruiser from another jurisdiction blow by me at 80 mph.
Now, I’m pretty sure the officer is not involved in a hot pursuit that began in his own jurisdiction, because he is not using his lights or siren. I’m pretty sure he just wants to get where he’s going sooner.
I’d like to get where I’m going sooner, too. But if I drive 80, I’m risking a ticket. He’s not risking a ticket, even though he is just as guilty of speeding.
When’s the last time you saw a cruiser pulled over by a cruiser from a different law-enforcement agency?
That’s a double standard. And that’s what reader Dave Davis figured he was witnessing the other morning as he was heading to work.
About 4:30 a.m., he says, he found himself following an Akron police cruiser, Car 22, that had gotten on U.S. 224 at Swartz Road and South Main Street near the southern edge of Akron. According to his email, here’s what happened next:
“As soon as the cruiser got on 224, it accelerated rapidly. I was going over 75 and the police car was pulling away from me.
“When we got onto I-77 North, he had more than a quarter-mile lead on me, but I was still trying to keep him in my sights. I was going over 80 when we got to state Route 8.
“When we got into Cuyahoga Falls, I started slowing down and the police car continued traveling in the far left lane. When I neared Broad Boulevard, a Falls police officer was running radar. I was surprised that the Akron police car blew by the Falls police without even touching the brakes.
“The Falls cop did nothing. The Akron cop continued past Steels Corners, where I exited.
“So it would seem it’s OK for a police officer to travel well over the speed limit without consequence and without the use of the emergency lights, and it would seem that other jurisdictions will allow it to happen without question.
“This also sends signals to the general public that many officers feel above the law and many other officers allow it to happen by turning a blind eye. Justice may be blind, but our police force shouldn’t be.”
Akron police Chief Jim Nice agreed to check out the situation, which is possible because every cruiser in the fleet is equipped with GPS. The technology enables headquarters to tell where every car is and was, and it also can trace how fast a certain car was going at a certain time.
After looking into the matter, Nice said this must be a case of mistaken identity because the car in question — No. 22 — was fast asleep in the Polsky parking deck at that time.
Nice said the vehicle Davis apparently saw belongs to “a federal agent who lives on Swartz Road. His number is 222. He parks it right there.
“It’s very likely he got a call-out and was heading north on the call.”
When Davis was informed of the police chief’s response, he said, “I know the federal vehicle he speaks of. That is more of an SUV. [What I saw] was a Akron police car and the number was 22.”
I told the chief Davis was adamant about what he saw, and asked whether the GPS could be switched off.
“The GPS can be disabled by not turning on the Mobile Data Terminal,” he said. “[But] Car 22 is not used at that hour of the day and is shown to be in the Polsky garage. I would find it highly unlikely that an officer would steal the car. That would be a fireable offense.”
Nice said he had been told the federal agent does have an SUV but also has a marked federal car that resembles an Akron police cruiser. He also said State Highway Patrol cars “look much like ours and do travel between cities.”
So there we have it.
Have what? I’m not sure. Too bad Davis didn’t shoot a video.
And then text it to me. While he was driving. At 80 mph.
OK, maybe not.
Fortunately, we can clear up at least one issue here.
“What people don’t realize,” the chief said, “is just because the lights and sirens aren’t on doesn’t mean we’re not going to a hot call.”
One night earlier, he said, he had been driving toward the scene of a SWAT action when two Akron cruisers flew by his unmarked car, lights and sirens wailing. But once they got closer to the scene, they shut off the noise.
“You’re not going to catch a burglar [with] lights and siren. You can probably hear [the siren] at least a quarter-mile away.”
With or without lights and siren, the officer driving is responsible for making sure he is traveling at a speed that doesn’t endanger public safety. And if he does endanger the public, Nice said, “that’s on him.”
When I told the chief I had observed plenty of police cars from other departments speeding outside of their own jurisdictions, he said he had not noticed the same thing. But if an Akron officer is tempted, he said, Big Bro’ will be breathing down his neck.
“With the computers, we can actually tell what speeds people are doing. If a cop is doing stuff now and we get a complaint, we can take that and we can discipline somebody.”
The tracking technology also makes playing hookey a bigger challenge.
“With the GPS, cops can’t go home and goof off. [We] can sit in the radio room and see where the cars are.”
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.