York County sheriff: 1 policy violation found during April 4 high-speed chase

adouglas@heraldonline.comJuly 1, 2014 

— A York County deputy was cited for violating the Sheriff’s Office’s pursuit policy during the April high-speed chase that prompted a State Law Enforcement Division investigation of York Police Chief Andy Robinson.

The April 4 midday chase involved several York officers, sheriff’s deputies and agents with the county’s drug enforcement unit. No one was injured during the chase.

Sgt. David Heath Clevenger has been given a written reprimand for not using his car’s emergency signals or sirens while speeding to catch up with the pursuit, sheriff’s officials said. Efforts to reach Clevenger for comment were unsuccessful.

The Herald first reported last month that Robinson was suspended for three days without pay and three other York officers were disciplined in May for several infractions of York’s pursuit policy, including the use of excessive speeds and “poor judgment,” according to the York department’s review of the incident.

After the chase, officers arrested Jacob Floyd Bailey, 29, of Marietta and charged him with grand larceny, reckless driving and other crimes, police records show.

SLED has finished its use of force investigation into whether Robinson inappropriately stepped on Bailey, who was lying on the ground and handcuffed at the time.

Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams’ office, which handles cases in Anderson and Oconee counties, has said it has not yet determined whether charges will be filed against Robinson or when its review of SLED’s investigation will be finished. The case was assigned to Adams’ office due to potential conflicts of interest in other solicitors’ offices, including the 16th Circuit in York.

York City Manager Charlie Helms and police department leaders handed down Robinson’s suspension and disciplined three other officers for violating pursuit policy during the chase, which reached speeds of more than 130 mph.

Police officials have said the pursuit should have ended shortly after it started on East Liberty Street. Lt. Michael Keith Wills wrote in his review of the pursuit that there were “many opportunities for disaster.”

The sheriff’s office review of the chase dealt only with deputies’ actions during the pursuit.

The sheriff’s review of its deputies’ involvement found that, overall, the pursuit followed department guidelines. The evaluation uncovered what Kris Jordan, sheriff’s office attorney, called a minor policy violation.

Clevenger was reprimanded for speeding for a short distance to join the chase without using his vehicle’s blue lights or siren, Jordan said. Clevenger notified dispatchers that he was running “Code 2” toward the chase, she said, but department officials later found that a “Code 2” wasn’t needed.

The sheriff’s pursuit policy defines a “Code 2” or “silent run” as a police response to a crime or emergency during which officers are allowed to violate traffic laws – such as speeding or running red lights – without using sirens or blue lights.

Under state law and department policy, police officers are allowed to respond “Code 2” for three reasons:

• To obtain evidence of a speeding violation

• To respond to a crime without alerting the suspect to their presence

• To conduct surveillance of suspects.

During the April 4 chase, no “Code 2” would have been warranted, Jordan said, because the suspect already knew police were pursuing him. Other sheriff’s office units involved in the pursuit were running “Code 3,” an emergency response mode that requires officers to use blue lights and sirens.

The sheriff’s office trains deputies every year on emergency vehicle operation, Jordan said. Deputies take part in practical exercises, such as driving, and undergo training on written policies.

The April 4 chase will be used in future training sessions as a “real-life example,” she said, because it involved unusual circumstances – the involvement of multiple jurisdictions and agencies and the suspect’s changing directions several times during the chase.

“We’re satisfied that there were no overt violations of policy,” Jordan said, but “one can always do things better.”

Sheriff’s office leaders noticed many positive aspects of the car chase, she said, including successfully arresting the suspect and that deputies appropriately “disengaged” from the pursuit when there were too many officers involved.

Herald reporter Jonathan McFadden contributed.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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