Newark police chief charged with running school bus stop sign

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A local chief of police is now charged with failing to stop for a school bus stop sign.

An outside agency charged Newark Police Chief Barry Connell, three months after the incident was caught on camera.

But there are still questions about the handling of the investigation.

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School bus camera video captured the incident from October 10. Bus driver Patty Hughes slowed to a stop, activated her flashing yellow lights, then her flashing red lights and stop sign, as the door opened and a little girl began to exit the bus.

The video shows an unmarked police cruiser approaching on the left-hand-side of the bus, and then passing it.

"I was flabbergasted," said Hughes.

She says a few days later, as soon as she got a copy of the video, she went to the Newark Police Department to report the incident.

She says a sergeant told her what the officer had done was perfectly legal.

"I told him my concern, I told him I had a video. He basically said he's not interested in seeing the video. And he kept telling me, 'Oh we can do that, as long as we use due diligence.'"

A Newark Police spokesperson says shortly after the incident, they figured out the officer behind the wheel that day was their Chief, Barry Connell.

They also discovered that their understanding of the law was incorrect: all vehicles are required to stop for school buses.

Emergency vehicles are no exception.

Newark Police issued a new training bulletin to make all officers aware, and from the police department's perspective, that appeared to be the last word on the incident.

That is until nearly three months later when the media began asking questions.

In police records obtained by 10TV, Newark Deputy Chief Erik McKee writes:

"On Wednesday, January 2, 2019, I was assigned to investigate a school bus passing which occurred on October 10th, 2018, involving one of our police vehicles."

A police report was initiated just on January 4th, 2019, listing Connell as the suspect.

McKee writes that his review of the video of his boss found Connell "alongside the bus, forward of the rear flashing lights when they were switched from yellow to red."

This week the city's Law Director asked the Licking County Sheriff's Office to review the video, and they came to the conclusion: "...that Chief Connell had passed the school bus inappropriately."

The Sheriff's Office issued Connell a citation for passing a stopped school bus.

"I hope it's a wake-up call for all police- not to put a kids life in jeopardy," said Hughes. "I mean, is catching a bank robber worth the life of a kid? And yes that's a serious thing. But is it worth the life of a child? The answer should be 'no' every time."

Connell was responding to assist his officers with the foot pursuit of a felon wanted for a probation violation.

A spokesperson says Connell is not able to comment because of the pending investigation.

Newark Police also declined comment about the three-month delay before they investigated the incident.

The division spokesperson declined to comment.

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