CLEVELAND -- The head of a Cleveland police union is defending a recent police chase that involved 62 cars.
"When you go 25 minutes in a car chase and no other police cars or police officers got hurt, and no citizens driving through major intersections got hurt, I think that's the perfect chase," Detective Jeffrey Follmer, President of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association, stated Thursday morning.
Follmer appeared on WCPN Radio less than 24 hours after first calling the November 29 police pursuit "the perfect chase," during a news conference. The CPPA and the Fraternal Order of Police both defended police actions during the chase, which ended with the shooting deaths of the two people being pursued.
"No other citizens got hurt in this pursuit," Follmer said. "It was a long pursuit that went from downtown to the West Side all the way to the East Side. And that speaks wonders for our officers' training, professionalism, and a care for the public that they conducted on that night by blocking intersections, letting the car chase go through."
FOP President Lieutenant Brian W. Betley agreed. "If you see most of that footage with the 50 cars going by, that's more like an O.J. Simpson chase where it's pretty slow," Betley pointed out. "There's no speeds there of 100 miles per hour."
A report by the Ohio Attorney General concluded that speeds of 100 miles per hour were reached at times the chase was on local freeways. The speeds were lower as the pursuit wound through city streets.
A total of 62 police cars from six departments took part in the chase, which covered 22 miles and ended when two fleeing suspects, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, were shot to death in their car in a school parking lot in East Cleveland.
"Should it be 60 cars?" Follmer asked on the Thursday morning radio program and then answered his own question. "You don't know how this chase is going to end up. At this time we are thinking they have guns in the car. If they come out shooting, you want as many officers there to take, to do what they have to do with the use of deadly force."
Follmer said it would have been "crazy" to limit the chase to 3 police cars without the approval of a supervisor, as policy demands, because the pursuit was an "unusual circumstance." 59 of the 62 cars did not have explicit permission to join the chase.
"When more officers come, it's for the officers' safety," Follmer said. "They're looking out for each other." Betley went further, saying, "I think it would be a dereliction of duty for them to hold off and not be involved to apprehend these perceived armed suspects." "And my hat's off to those patrolmen who block the intersections."