Suppose you are rearended by a police officer through no fault of your own. There were no sirens sounding and no lights flashing from the police car. In fact, you had no idea you were about to be hit. Would you think that the police officer and the police department, his employer, are responsible for his negligent acts? Most folks would probably think so- but not so fast. In Ohio, a police department and its officer-employees are treated differently than the regular citizens. They are provided immunity for much of their actions via the Ohio Political Subdivision Tort Liability Statute, R.C. 2744.
To determine whether a polictical subdivision is entitled to immunity, the courts go through a three step analysis. R.C. 2744.02(A) says that generally a political subdivision is not liable in a civil action for damages and injuries it causes. R.C. 2744.02(B)(1) provides exceptions to the blanket immunity. One such exception is the negligent operation of a motor vehicle. However, R.C. 2744.02 also provides another layer of immunity. Even if the officer operating the motor vehicle that hit you was negligent, he could still escape responsibility if he and the police department can show he was on an emergency call.
"Emergency call" is defined in R.C. 2744.01 and has been broadly interpreted by Ohio Courts. Evidently, the officer does not have to sound the siren or activate the lights to be granted immunity. Nevertheless, every case is very fact specific. Many Ohio courts have held that whether a police officer is on an emergency call is a question of fact for the jury.