Bob Reinbolt, Mayor D. Michael Collins‘ chief of staff and safety director for the city, used police-styled emergency lights to go through red lights and skirt other traffic laws during Toledo’s water crisis.
Dash cam video recorded shortly after midnight on Aug. 4 by a Toledo police officer shows a black SUV going “Code 3” through a traffic light at Monroe Street and Detroit Avenue. Emergency and public safety vehicles can disregard some traffic laws when responding to an emergency.
The officer who saw the SUV followed it and eventually pulled along side the vehicle when it was stopped, according to a police spokesman. The officer asked who he was and why he was going Code 3.
Mr. Reinbolt identified himself and explained where he was going, according to the police spokesman. The spokesman did not know Mr. Reinbolt‘s response, and said there is no video of the conversation.
TPD Deputy Chief Don Kenney said Mayor Collins was informed of the incident and did not request a supplemental report. Since Mr. Reinbolt is the safety director and in charge of the police department, Deputy Chief Kenney said, he would have to be investigated by a higher ranking officer: The mayor.
A memo written Aug. 7 by city Law Director Adam Loukx and sent to Mr. Reinbolt, other top city officials, and to members of Toledo city council, discussed a municipal code provision that confers “special police power” to some city officials. That “special police power” is “the same and coextensive with that of the police officers of the Department of Police Operations,” the municipal code states.
That law, however, “does not, in fact give you license to do anything a trained and certified law enforcement officer can do,” Mr. Loukx wrote. City staff that are conferred “special police power” should not, for instance, make arrests or emergency runs, he wrote.
“It also goes without saying, that the provisions of [the municipal code)] are not intended to confer special benefits on person granted special police powers,” the memo says.
That municipal code also does not grant “special police power” to the safety director. Mr. Reinbolt is not a police officer. But Mr. Loukx , said that he believed that Mr. Reinbolt, as safety director, carries “inherent” police powers.
He would not comment on what prompted his memo. But he said that the advise meant to convey that those given special police powers attempt things they wouldn't ordinarily do.
Mr. Loukx said that case law provides for a “call to duty” for emergency responders to disregard traffic law when they believe they are responding to an emergency.
“I don't think it's prudent for us to do that. I would never do it myself,” Mr. Loukx said. “But it is strictly speaking legal? I would suggest it probably would be.”
He called the incident “much ado about nothing,” and said he hasn’t investigated what emergency Mr. Reinbolt was responding to that night.
“If the safety director say he was responding to an emergency, I have no reason to doubt it,” he said.
Even if Mr. Reinbolt was a police officer, his going Code 3 during the water crisis could have violated Toledo Police Department policy. That policy says officers should only go Code 3 in marked vehicles, and only if they are dispatched as such, a sworn supervisor believes someone‘s life is in danger, during a pursuit, during a serious public hazard, to save a life, if an officer requests Code 3 assistance, or if a violent crime is in progress or to prevent a violent crime.
Police in unmarked vehicles may go Code 3 if they’ve been authorized by the Chief of Police, and if they are responding at the request of an incident commander, or to a robbery in progress, a request for Code 3 backup, or in a pursuit of a felony offender who had used violence or made a threat of violence.
A TPD spokesman said that the police chief “is not in a position to grant permission to the Safety Director” to go Code 3.
It‘s unclear where Mr. Reinbolt was going at the time the video was recorded. Toxic microcystin from lake algae contaminated the drinking water affecting about 500,000 customers, prompting city officials to issue a do-not-drink advisory from Aug. 2 until the morning of Aug. 4.
Mr. Reinbolt did not return calls from The Blade about the incident.
The Tahoe was equipped with emergency lights by the Bell administration, according to the mayor’s spokesman Lisa Ward, who said the SUV was the only one used by the mayor‘s office that has the lights.
Ms. Ward said that Mr. Reinbolt has used the emergency lights before, when “he needed to get to a location quickly.”
“I'm sure if it turns out he shouldn't [use emergency lights] it would be an embarrassment,” Ms. Ward said, “and Lord knows we have had enough embarrassments lately.”
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.