Small-town Ohio police could soon gain arrest power

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, July 29, 2016

A bill halfway through the Ohio statehouse would permit all township police to make arrests during traffic stops on local highways.

Ohio law now prohibits constables in townships with up to 50,000 residents from making arrests on portions of roadway in the national highway system that are not interstate highway.

House lawmakers voted 81-16 to advance a bill to the Senate to remove the population-based threshold to allow all township police the authority to make arrests on national highways that are not included in the interstate system. The affected roadway must be located within the territory of the officer.

Republican Reps. Stephen Hambley of Brunswick and Jeffrey Rezabek of Clayton say their legislation would allow small townships the same jurisdictional rights as large townships on affected state highways.

Hambley noted during House floor discussion on the bill that only seven of the state’s 1,308 townships have a population of more than 50,000. He said police in the other 1,300 townships are forbidden to make arrests.

“Our bill will go a long way in empowering township officers to arrest drunk drivers and fight drug and human trafficking in Ohio,” Hambley said in written remarks.

Rezabek added that the bill would permit a township officer to go ahead and make an arrest without being required to wait for a state trooper or county sheriff to show up.

“House Bill 378 empowers township officers to do their job more effectively,” Rezabek said.

Critics say township police often must leave their jurisdiction simply to access roadway that is not within their township. They claim such ventures outside townships can expose police to liability.

Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, raised concern that removing the population threshold could result in township speed traps on busy roadways. “This bill creates a slippery slope.”

The bill, HB378, awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.

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