CLEVELAND — Protecting those who protect and serve Ohio — that's the mission of a new directive from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Yost directed the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy (OPOTA) to expedite final examinations for hundreds of police cadets and allow them to bolster the ranks of Ohio law enforcement.
"We have to do everything legally, and safely, within our power to get officers and deputies on the streets of our state," Yost said.
The steps taken now are to prepare for a possible coronavirus crisis in some of the state's police departments.
In early April, 20 percent of the New York City Police Department's uniformed workforce was out sick, and at least a dozen members of NYPD died from suspected cases of coronavirus.
Yost is focused on what's ahead for Ohio.
"We're anticipating a need. Look, our officers and first responders come in contact with people every day. You can't socially distance law enforcement, it's pretty up and close and personal," said Yost.
Yost is trying to get more boots on the ground. OPOTA sets standards, requirements and certifications for police officers statewide. They also administer the final exam for cadets to become officers after graduating from police academies across the state. There are now more testing dates, all while cadets maintain social distancing.
"I can't remember if we ever had a situation where we've had back to back testing on multiple days of a single week. It's usually a little here, a little there. Usually get out of the academy and wait for the next testing date. We're pushing all of this," said Yost.
Yost is also working with police agencies to get recently retired law enforcement officers in good standing to return to the streets.
More than 1,000 police officers retire every year in Ohio. Yost is looking for police officers who have retired within the last four years to come back on the job.
OPOTA staff is working with local agencies to determine which required training retired officers will need to complete to be compliant with the OPOTA certification. That training will be moved to eOPOTA and will be available through an online training portal. Any retired law enforcement officers will be able to utilize eOPOTA to access the required training online.
The Akron Police Department is set to graduate 45 new cadets at the end of May. So far, Lt. Michael Miller said the department has not been impacted by COVID-19, but likes the idea of planning ahead.
"It's a great idea, depending on how each department could be impacted," said Miller.