Hilliard Northwest News

Francis: Mutual-aid agreements to expand


Law-enforcement agencies in Franklin County, including Hilliard, are in the process of entering into new mutual-aid agreements that allow out-of-jurisdiction police officers who witness "serious traffic offenses" -- those that are least fourth-degree misdemeanors -- to stop and detain a driver until police arrive from the city where the offense occurred.

Hilliard Police Chief Doug Francis outlined the new mutual-aid procedure at the Feb. 11 meeting of the public safety and legal affairs committee of Hilliard City Council.

The Franklin County Prosecutor's Office prepared the new agreements being introduced for consideration at various city councils, Francis said.

All agencies are expected to participate, and for the first time, police departments at colleges and universities, most notably the Ohio State University Police Department, are included in the agreements.

For the past 30 years, traditional mutual-aid agreements had only been applied in emergency situations, Francis said, but today, there are many more circumstances where shared resources can improve law-enforcement activities.

Several committee members asked whether the agreement meant a Hilliard officer would regularly enforce violations outside Hilliard's boundaries when traveling outside the city.

'The last thing I want (is) our officers running around downtown Columbus," Francis said, adding there would be limited instances when an officer witnesses a true threat to public safety, that an officer would act.

A Hilliard officer, for example, is not going to detain a motorist he sees driving 80 mph on I-270 in Worthington, Francis said.

"But he might stop a driver weaving in and out of traffic and who appears intoxicated (elsewhere on I-270)," he said.

Out-of-jurisdiction interventions occurred in the past, too, Francis said. During those incidents, the visiting agency asked permission to detain a driver. Under the new agreement, out-of-jurisdiction police can initiate a traffic stop, but still the local department would still be required to issue the citation or make an arrest.

In other action at the Feb. 11 committee meeting, members forwarded to the full council an ordinance establishing a process for the city to issue permits for the sale and possession of alcohol in designated areas of the city and during the Old Hilliardfest Art and Street Fair.

The ordinance is the fifth incarnation of legislation that has remained in committee since the idea of allowing limited sales of alcohol in public parks was first introduced last summer. Alcohol is prohibited in all city parks.

Several central Ohio cities, notably Dublin and Gahanna, allow alcohol sales at their signature festivals.

The ordinance, scheduled for a first reading Feb. 25, outlines eligible hours, locations and other specifics regulating alcohol sales and possession at city parks.

Council President Brett Sciotto questioned the appeals process that allows an applicant to appeal to a Franklin County judge.

Sciotto said he wanted appeals to be considered locally, something Law Director Tracy Bradford said is impossible because Mayor Don Schonhardt also serves as the city's safety director.

The safety director issues the permit, and if denied, can appeal to the mayor. Because Schonhardt also is the safety director, a Franklin County judge would consider an appeal.

But even if the jobs were individual, Bradford told Sciotto a Franklin County judge could still render injunctive relief, if deemed proper, for a permit Hilliard denied.