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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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 The sponsor of a bill that would increase the number of township police departments allowed to make arrests on interstate highways in Ohio is emphasizing the importance of the state’s battle to stem the heroin problem in his efforts to have the bill become law.

 State Rep. Steve Hambley, R- Brunswick, offered sponsor testimony recently before the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee, on House Bill 255 – his third attempt to update statutes covering which police departments can make arrests on interstates.

 “Through the HOPES (Heroin, Opioid, Prevention, Education and Safety) agenda, the Ohio House has made battling heroin addiction and trafficking one of its priorities…using three vital stratagems – prevention, interdiction and treatment,” Hambley told the committee. “House Bill 255 is crafted to use existing law enforcement resources to help accomplish this essential component of a comprehensive fight against opiates. Township police departments available to go on the interstates that cross through their own jurisdiction will be able to fully participate in coordinated drug interdiction efforts, as well as perform other important public safety functions.”

 Currently, police departments in townships with populations of less than 50,000 residents lack statutory authority to make warrantless traffic stops on interstate highways. Hambley’s bill would lower the population threshold to 5,000.

 He said only four township departments now have the authority to make arrests on interstate highways in their jurisdictions. Combined, they serve a population of about 225,000 residents.

 “By reducing the population threshold to 5,000 for township police departments to make arrests on interstate highways that cross those townships, nearly 700,000 Ohioans will be better served by their departments and 121 more miles of interstate highway will have a more consistent law enforcement presence,” he said.

 Smaller township departments gained some additional patrolling authority earlier this year when Gov. John Kasich signed another Hambley-sponsored measure, House Bill 378, which allows the smaller  departments to make arrests on U.S. and state highways but didn’t grant them power to do the same on interstate highways.  In testimony last year before the Senate Local Government Committee, Hambley conceded that the authority to patrol interstates was withheld from smaller township departments to appease the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association. Removing that authority from the bill while it was pending in the House of Representatives resulted in the sheriffs’ association dropping its opposition, Hambley told the senate committee.

 He also tried to expand the patrolling authority of the smaller township departments in an 11th-hour amendment to the House budget bill this spring but it wasn’t adopted.  HB 255 isn’t a mandate, Hambley told the House committee last month, because township trustees would still have the authority to decide if their police department resources should be used on interstates.

His bill also doesn’t change municipalities’ statutory authority to enforce state traffic laws.

 

Lake Twp. case

 The push for expanding township authority on interstates stems from a 2015 decision by the Ohio Supreme Court involving a traffic stop on I-280 by a Lake Township police officer who pulled over a motorist for a lane violation.  The driver had a suspended license and an active warrant in Michigan. The officer’s drug-sniffing dog also alerted to oxycodone tablets and marijuana.

However, that evidence was suppressed on appeal because the officer lacked the statutory authority to stop the driver.

 “The effect of this ruling was widespread and courts threw out a multitude of cases across the state, essentially letting a number of OVI and drug traffickers walk free,” Hambley said.

 HB 255 also includes provisions to discourage police departments from using the authority to patrol interstates to form “speed traps,” he testified.

 Under the bill, all township departments, regardless of population, are prevented from operating traffic cameras and it retains statutory language requiring revenue collected by township departments from speeding violations on interstates to be paid into county treasuries.

 Hambley told the committee the camera prohibition is supported by township police chiefs he’s talked to.  

Gun show loophole

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