You are hereCity of Clayton Police Department, Sergeant Steve Caudell's Actions Are Declared Improper Conduct

City of Clayton Police Department, Sergeant Steve Caudell's Actions Are Declared Improper Conduct

An officer puts the lives of citizens at risk and damages property by pursuing a suspicious vehicle that committed no serious offense.

But did he really prevent a serious violent crime?

Click here for the complete report issued by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

The following report was prepared by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

On Tuesday, April 22, 2003, at approximately 2330 hours, Sergeant Caudell was patrolling North Main Street in the City of Clayton in a marked patrol car equipped with working emergency lights and siren. He saw a white Oldsmobile back into a parking space at the Gardenwood Apartments near Woolery Lane. Sergeant Caudell did not see anyone exit the vehicle. He thought this was suspicious, so he pulled into the parking lot to get the vehicle's registration. He approached the parked vehicle and saw two subjects inside "duck down".

Sergeant Caudell continued past the vehicle and saw that it did not have a front license plate. He turned his car around and observed that the suspect vehicle was leaving towards North Main Street on Woolery Lane.

Sergeant Caudell caught up with the suspect vehicle traveling south on North Main Street north of Westbrook Road. Sergeant Caudell activated his emergency lights while behind the suspect vehicle, to stop the vehicle because of the occupant's suspicious behavior. Sergeant Caudell said he was about two car lengths behind the suspect vehicle at this time.

The driver of the suspect vehicle immediately turned his vehicle lights off and accelerated away from Sergeant Caudell. Sergeant Caudell then activated his siren with his emergency lights causing the suspect vehicle to "go faster". Sergeant Caudell then started to pursue the suspect vehicle, and notified his dispatch center, "I got one refusing to stop for me..."

The reason Sergeant Caudell was trying to stop the suspect vehicle, at the time he activated his emergency lights and siren, was for the occupant's suspicious activity and operating a vehicle without lighted lights. Clayton Police Department Pursuit Policy 41.2.8, Evaluating Circumstances says:

The operation of a police vehicle while pursuing another is one of the most hazardous situations that police officers routinely confront. The safety of the citizens and personnel is the first concern in a pursuit. Therefore, the Clayton Police Department prohibits vehicle pursuits unless there is probably cause to believe that the person has committed a violent felony, or, the suspect's flight poses a serious risk to the safety of the officer or to the citizens of the community.

Sergeant Caudell's actions in initiating a pursuit for suspicious circumstances and operating a vehicle without lighted lights are inconsistent with the City of Clayton's Pursuit Policy. Sergeant Caudell['s] actions are declared improper conduct.

During the pursuit, Sergeant Caudell failed to advise dispatch of the speed in which they were traveling, the traffic and weather conditions, and the reason for the pursuit. On Hillcrest Avenue, the dispatcher specifically asks Sergeant Caudell, "703 can I have the reason for the pursuit?" Sergeant Caudell did not answer the dispatcher.

The suspect vehicle continued westbound on Hillcrest Avenue at a high rate of speed. The suspect vehicle failed to stop for a red traffic signal at Philadelphia Drive and a red traffic signal at Salem Avenue. The suspect vehicle collided with Mr. Curry, who was driving southeast on Salem Avenue. The suspect vehicle continued westbound where it collided with Mr. Lee, who was pulled to the curb on Hillcrest Avenue at Kensington Drive for the oncoming police vehicle, which was operating emergency lights and siren.

Sergeant Caudell said that he was between Hepburn Avenue and Benton Avenue at the time the suspect vehicle crashed. Sergeant Caudell said he thought this was about "five to six blocks" away. Sergeant Caudell was able to see sparks and flames and hear "the big boom or crash" at the time of the collision.

In his own account, Sergeant Caudell writes:

On 4/22/03 at approximately 23:30 hrs_ while on patrol in my marked police vehicle, I observed a suspicious vehicle in the 1st Drive of Gardenwoods Apartments. I obseiVed the vehicle back into a parking space and no one exited the vehicle. I entered the parking lot in an attempt to run the license plate on the vehicle, a 1982 Olds, white in color. As I approached the vehicle I obseiVed that there appeared to be two subjects in the vehicle and they both ducked down in an attempt to conceal their presence from me. I also obseiVed that there was no front license plate on the vehicle.

I turned my vehicle around, and by the time I returned to the original place where I had seen the vehicle (less than 5 seconds) I could see the vehicle at the comer of Woolery Lane and N. Main St. (S.R. 48). I observed the vehicle turn Southbound on N. Main St. from Woolery Lane. I followed in an attempt to get the registration from the car.

As I approached the vehicle, just North of Westbrook Rd. and N. Main St. I could see the temporary tag (0442586). I advised Dispatch of the registration and activated my emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop. As soon as I activated my emergency lights, th8 driver of the vehicle (later identified as James R. Jackson, Ill), turned out the lights (blacked out) on his vehicle and accelerated away from me. I advised Dispatch that I had a vehicle not stopping for me, and requested that Dispatch contact MCSO. I then activated my siren while keeping my emergency lights on.

I continued to follow the vehicle at a safe and reasonable speed, in order to just keep the vehicle in sight until either MCSO or Dayton P.O. (who I also requested assistance from) could arrive in the area. The vehicle continued, with the lights off, Southbound on N. Main St. The vehicle almost hit two vehicles at N. Main St. and Turner Rd. when he ran the red light there. I was becoming increasingly concerned that, even though I was not directly behind him, he was still continuing to accelerate, so I slowed down to make sure that I could still make out the vehicle in front of me. 1 kept my overhead emergency lights on, and siren on in an attempt to warn any drivers that there was danger. He continued, still with his lights off Southbound on N. Main St., again almost striking two vehicles at N. Main St. and Siebenthaler. The driver turned West onto Marson, ran the stop sign at Marson and Sandlewood {where he almost hit three parked cars). He continued on Sandalwood to Hillcrest. He continued West on Hillcrest through the intersection (red light) at Philadelphia Dr. where he, again, almost crashed into vehicles on Philadelphia Dr. The vehicle continued, accelerating and pulled away from me even more. The distance between our vehicles, by this time, was probably five to six blocks. I could see emergency lights behind me in my rear view mirror, and thought to myself that "Dayton is finally here."

As I watched the vehicle approaching the intersection at Salem Ave. and Hillcrest, I became even more concerned because I did not see the vehicle's brake lights come on, and I knew this to be a relatively busy intersection. I next obseiVed the vehicle run the red light and hit two vehicles that were, I believe, travelling on Salem Ave.

The accident appeared quite severe and I requested ambulances through my Dispatch before I exited my vehicle. There were numerous Dayton officers at the scene, and we attempted to get the occupants of the vehicles out of their cars, as we were afraid of a possible fire from the Olds.

I went to both Good Samaritan and Miami Valley Hospital to check on the conditions of the three subjects in the Olds, as well as the two innocent drivers of the cars that were struck at Hillcrest and Salem Ave.

Click here for the complete report issued by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

Inspectional Services Report 03-0151.95 MB