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Police chief uses social media, defends against chases after series of critical stories come out

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East Cleveland – David Petkiewicz cleveland.com


Adam Ferrise

cleveland.com

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner took to social media to defend his department’s record after a series of stories by cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer took a critical look at officers’ 105 chases in a 120-day span.

Gardner’s posts, on the department’s official page he also uses to disseminate information about arrests, road closures and other regular business, authored the Facebook posts in the days after the stories published last week.

He declined to be interviewed before the series published. East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King also ignored repeated requests from cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer reporters.

Gardner called the series a “smear campaign” and cited Facebook commenters that disagreed with the premise of the series.

“I would also like to commend their ‘pursuit expert.’ I’m still trying to grasp what makes the professor an expert on policing in East Cleveland, let alone anywhere,” Gardner’s post said. “I was wondering if I could be an expert on space travel? I’ve read a couple of magazine articles. I am still not certain of the purpose of this series, however, I think you have failed miserably.”

Cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer spoke with dozens of people— including experts, people involved in chases, city council members and civil rights attorneys — for the series that looked at the chases, their effect on citizens and the financial issues plaguing the broke city that’s been under fiscal emergency for nine years.

East Cleveland – David Petkiewicz cleveland.com

An analysis of the chases based on East Cleveland police records showed of the 105 chases, 40 percent ended in crashes, nearly all topped out at 50 miles per hour or more and 87 percent of the stops that led to the chases were for minor traffic violations or issues such as tinted windows or license plate violations. All 63 people arrested during that time frame were Black.

Three people died following police chases in East Cleveland so far this year, including one shot to death by a police officer after the chase.

Find all our stories — including on the city’s financial distress, the police department’s demographics and the law that was supposed to stop the wild pursuits — here.

In another post, Gardner criticized the news outlet after it published two stories of people involved in chases. Gardner posted body camera video of the two chases, along with a message that said his department provided the videos to cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer ahead of publication.

However, the videos were provided in a format that was inaccessible by cleveland.com, and a police supervisor did not respond to a follow-up request for assistance in accessing the videos.

©2021 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit cleveland.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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