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GEAUGA LAKE Bill would let park hire own police force



Published: Wed, February 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Sworn police officers would be able to arrest lawbreakers at the park.

COLUMBUS -- Geauga Lake, the amusement park that straddles Geauga and Portage counties, would be able to hire its own police force under a bill that passed the Ohio Senate on Tuesday.

Senators approved 31-0 and forwarded to the Ohio House of Representatives the measure that also would allow amusement park police officers, at the park's expense, to attend the same training schools as other police officers.

State Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, the Chesterland Republican who sponsored the bill, said the measure would help bolster safety at Geauga Lake.

"It would provide an even safer environment," Grendell said.

State officials said the bill, if passed by the Ohio House and signed into law by Republican Gov. Bob Taft, would impact only Geauga Lake.

Amusement parks that operate in the boundaries of a municipality, already have agreements and ordinances in place to provide for amusement park police officers, state officials said.

Property lines

Part of the Geauga Lake property is in the city of Aurora, which has a police force that responds to incidents on the Portage County side of the park.

But much of the park is in Bainbridge Township in Geauga County, and state officials said law enforcement agencies there have to respond to emergency calls on the park's Geauga County side.

If the amusement park had its own police force, local law enforcement agencies could save money and reduce the number of runs there, state officials said.

Lexi Robinson, a spokeswoman for Geauga Lake, said the amusement park has had a private security force, but that many of the security officers could not detain suspects accused of misdemeanor-level offenses because they were not sworn officers.

A licensed amusement-park police force would be able to detain and arrest suspects charged with both misdemeanor- and felony-level offenses, Robinson said.

If approved by the Ohio House and the governor, Grendell said he hopes to have the measure in place by May in time for the peak amusement-park season.

The bill now moves to the Ohio House for consideration.




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