Police investigate if officer violated policy after woman struck in OTR

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - A woman remains in the hospital after a Cincinnati cop hit her with his cruiser Saturday night.

Cincinnati police officer Orlando Smith was responding to a request for backup when he hit 36-year old Natalie Cole in the 1800 block of Vine street in Over-the-Rhine. Investigators say she was not in a crosswalk when she was hit, and witnesses told police Cole flew 40 feet in the air.

Police say Smith had his emergency lights and siren at the time of the accident, but the big unknown is just how fast was he going?

The preliminary report shows 50 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone, but police say it's far too early to confirm that.

Chief Jeffrey Blackwell says the video stopped before the accident because of a malfunction in the system, something that has happened before in other pursuits.

"We do apologize upfront for the fact that we had a technical malfunction that on its face would appear as if there was something more to this," says Blackwell.

According to police policy, when driving in what's known as emergency mode, the driver must not exceed the posted speed limit by more than 20 miles an hour.

If going off of the preliminary report, Smiths 50 miles per hour breaks policy rules.

But Chief Blackwell stresses this is simply a preliminary report and until they confirm a more accurate speed, Officer Smith acted responsibly.

"Emergency vehicle operations is something that we have to do, that's just a part of this job. It's dangerous, it's risky, and accidents sometimes happen. So what's acceptable to me is the fact that he was operating his cruiser with due regard, and being reasonable," says Blackwell.

According to Officer Smith's personnel file, he does have a history of crashes in police cruisers during his 19 year career with CPD. But Blackwell says they won't be a factor if there's any consequences from Saturday's accident.

"2003 is almost eleven years ago so I think all of that is irrelevant," explains Blackwell.

Officer Smith did receive the medal of valor earlier this year and Blackwell stresses at this point, they fully stand behind him.

"He is a tremendous police officer and an asset to this police department," says Blackwell.

Smith is on paid administrative leave. As for the investigation, police say it's going to take a couple weeks to find out for sure just how fast Officer Smith was driving.

The victim, Natalie Cole, remains in serious, but stable condition at UC Medical Center.

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