Story updated at 3:15 p.m. to reflect traffic citation issued.
Mayor D. Michael Collins said today that he has issued Bob Reinbolt, his chief of staff and safety director, a ticket for running a red light.
The decision came after media reports that Mr. Reinbolt had gone through a red light using police-style emergency lights on his city vehicle during Toledo‘s recent water crisis.
Mr. Collins said Mr. Reinbolt will also receive counseling on the police department’s pursuit policy.
“We believe that laws that exist should be equally applied; hence a red-light citation has been issued to Mr. Reinbolt,” Mayor Collins said in a statement.
In the wee hours of the third day of Toledo’s water crisis, dash-cam video from a city police car captured images of Mr. Reinbolt driving through red lights and skirting other traffic laws with police-style emergency lights on top of his city vehicle.
The 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 alongside the vehicle when it was stopped, according to a police spokesman. The officer asked who the driver was and why he was going Code 3.
Mr. Reinbolt identified himself as the safety director and explained where he was going, according to a police spokesman. The spokesman did not know what else Mr. Reinbolt might have said, 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. Because Mr. Reinbolt is the safety director and in charge of the police department, Deputy Chief Kenney said, the incident 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 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 co-extensive 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 who 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 a 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 he believed that Mr. Reinbolt, as safety director, carries “inherent” police powers.
He would not comment on what prompted his memo, but he said the advice was meant to convey that those given special police powers should not attempt things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.
Mr. Loukx said case law provides for a “call to duty” for emergency responders to disregard traffic laws 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 is it strictly speaking legal? I would suggest it probably would be.”
Mr. Loukx 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 says 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 police chief, 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.
Police, firefighters, and other emergency responders also are trained to stop and look for oncoming traffic at intersections, even when responding to emergencies.
A TPD spokesman said 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 Toledo’s drinking water system, affecting about 500,000 customers and 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 Chevrolet Tahoe was equipped with emergency lights by the administration of former mayor Mike Bell, according to Mr. Collins’ spokesman Lisa Ward, who said the SUV was the only one used by the mayor’s office that has the lights.
Ms. Ward said 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.”
Mr. Reinbolt faced criticism in 2007, when he was then-mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s chief of staff, for a run-in with police. He was parked on Beech Street behind Government Center in a staging zone for police officers’ patrol vehicles, and was told by police to move his car.
He refused, claiming that if he moved he would have lost a cell phone call. He later called the police chief to complain.
The police patrolmen’s union protested, saying in a letter that Mr. Reinbolt showed “arrogance and abuse of your authority,” and that he had flashed a “gold badge” and said, “You work for me.”