State House Bill wants to add township police jurisdiction on Interstate Highways

State House Bill wants to add township police jurisdiction on Interstate Highways
Lake Twp. police jurisdiction (Source: WTOL)
Lake Twp. police jurisdiction (Source: WTOL)
Perrysburg Twp. police jurisdiction (Source: WTOL)
Perrysburg Twp. police jurisdiction (Source: WTOL)

COLUMBUS, OH (WTOL) - A current proposal in the Ohio House of Representatives has local law enforcement a bit divided. It's all about whether or not to allow township police departments to patrol the Interstate.

"I would ask, 'Why wouldn't anyone want us to be able to enforce the laws on a road that runs through our jurisdiction?'" said Perrysburg Township Police lieutenant Matt Gasarek.

According to Ohio state law, only Ohio Highway Patrol, local sheriff's department and municipal police departments have jurisdiction over interstates.

But current Ohio House Bill 255 wants to authorize township officers of a population greater than 5,000 to also have jurisdiction.

Locally, Lake Township and Perrysburg townships have endorsed the proposal.

"And they'll pass it on to agencies to the north of us while they've got several miles that they have to drive through our jurisdiction when we may have an officer closer than anybody," said Lt. Gasarek.

Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, who is the president of of the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, says this conversation has already happened.

Two years ago, the BSSA agreed to let townships have joint jurisdiction of state and federal highways, while leaving interstate jurisdiction alone.

"And our frustration is here. We are a year and a half, two years later and it's being reintroduced again as if we never met before and negotiated and worked this out," Sheriff Wasylyshyn said. "So that's our number one frustration."

Sheriff Wasylyshyn says it is also not just about sharing the jurisdiction of the interstates that worries him, but also that some of these township police may have to cross jurisdiction lines to access the portion of the interstate that is within their borders.

For example, it is pretty clear where Lake Township's jurisdiction of I-280 falls, but Perrysburg Township has mile long gaps between jurisdiction lines.

"So it's going to take miles for them to drive out of their jurisdiction if they go south, if they go north they have a long way to go to get back into their area." Sheriff Wasylyshyn said.

But Lt. Gazarek says jurisdiction cooperation between agencies is already present, and is much needed to properly enforce the law.

"They can't do it alone, they can't do it alone. They can't stop every drunk driver, they can't stop every car that may or may not have weapons, they can't stop every narcotics smuggler," Lt. Gazarek said. "They just can't do it alone, even though they do a great job."

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