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Canton mayor vows to reevaluate police practices, endorses national 'Eight Can't Wait' campaign

Canton Police
Posted at 5:06 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 19:32:37-04

CANTON, Ohio — Governor Mike DeWine announced a plan Tuesday to create police standards for responding to mass protests.

He said he is asking the Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board director to explore best practices.

An evaluation of that sort includes determining at what point during a protest do measures like tear gas, pepper spray and non-lethal projectiles become necessary.

He also stressed the importance of law enforcement officers preventing members of the media being injured.

“Let me be clear. When protests morph from peaceful to violent, police must be empowered to act,” DeWine said. “When law enforcement witnesses physical violence or property destruction they must be ready and able to react.”

The governor’s announcement comes as cries have been heard nationwide demanding the defunding of police institutions.

Calls for change include reevaluating funding and moving toward a more community-based policing system.

Mayor Thomas Bernabei of Canton has now endorsed national campaigns centered around police reform after the Minneapolis City Council voted to disband its police department Sunday following the death of George Floyd.

“We intend to improve and where there is a need to make changes, to make improvements and so forth,”Bernabei said, “We need to acknowledge that and that’s not only in Canton, but every place.”

While Bernabei disagrees with defunding police departments, he has announced his commitment to the national “Eight Can’t Wait” campaign, which addresses use of force policies during police interactions.

“Obviously the horrific murder of Mr. Floyd brings back the immediacy of the need to reexamine these and we understand that we need to reexamine them,” Bernabei said. “We understand that we need to re-train on them and constantly train on them.”

Bernabei said the department already has several regulations in place that address concerns surrounding police protocols, including requiring all officers to report every instance of use of force and banning chokeholds and strangleholds.

“In Canton, that has not been part of our training and they are not permitted,” Bernabei said.

Officers in Canton are also required to intervene if they witness another officer exercising unreasonable force.

“We saw the primary officer with his knee on the throat of Mr. George Floyd for a period of almost nine minutes,” Bernabei said. “We also saw three officers standing in the background doing nothing.”

The “Eight Can’t Wait” campaign also addresses de-escalation tactics, shooting at moving vehicles and the requirement of warning before shooting.

Ohio House Democrats are proposing a handful of bills that would prohibit tear gas and profiling by police, as well as calls for independent investigations of officer-involved shootings and the creation of a database that would document past instances of police brutality or use of excessive force.

In a written release by the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, lawmakers outlined legislative plans to address police and civil justice reform which are listed below:

  • A bill that would demilitarize the police by prohibiting Ohio police departments from benefiting from the federal 1099 program, which allows the DOD to offload excess and surplus military weapons & equipment to police departments at little to no cost
  • A bill that would prohibit law enforcement agencies from profiling and requires annual racial or other biased-based police training
  • A bill to prohibit the use of arrest or citation quotas by all law enforcement agencies
  • A bill regarding de-escalation and mental health training
  • A bill to require that all officer-involved shootings and other officer misconduct be independently investigated
  • A bill to create a centralized excessive use of force database that would require all law enforcement agencies to report officer-involved shootings and injuries
  • A bill that requires the Attorney General to maintain a database showing the employment history of police officers
  • A bill to require police officers wear clearly visible and easily traceable identification at all times
  • A bill to prohibit the use of tear gas by law enforcement