Police in Ashtabula Co. lag in adopting state police standards as cop-involved shootings there rise

Posted at 9:52 AM, Jun 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 10:38:17-04

As the state of Ohio investigates four officer-involved shooting cases in Ashtabula County, News 5 has learned that few police departments there are adopting new statewide policing standards.

“It’s not a very arduous process that is difficult for any agency to adhere to,” said Dr. Ronnie Dunn, a professor of urban studies at Cleveland State University.

Dunn is one of 11 members of the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, which is made up of civilians and police.

Ohio Governor John Kasich ordered the creation of the board in 2015 partly in response to the Tamir Rice shooting.

It has developed unified standards, for police departments across the state, that include proper use of force, bias-free policing and body-worn cameras.

“The purpose of all of this is to improve that relationship by building trust between police and community,” said Dr. Karhlton Moore, executive director of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, or OCJS.

OCJS certifies departments that are adopting the board’s standards.

So far, 506 out of 877 law enforcement agencies statewide are participating in the Collaborative certification process, which is free and voluntary.

But Ashtabula County ranks at the bottom of the entire state with only three law enforcement agencies, Conneaut, Roaming Shores and Andover police departments participating. That’s out of 10 total.

“We have more work to do,” said Moore.

The Ashtabula sheriff’s department and Ashtabula police each have two open officer-involved shootings cases, which are being handled by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Neither agency is involved in the certification process.

“I just need answers about what happened to my son,” said Dwane Cox, whose son Evan Cox was fatally shot by an Ashtabula police officer in November 2016.

“You never see a cop just bust through the door and start shooting,” said Alex Spangler, whose cousin is Brendan Hester. An Ashtabula police officer shot Hester on June 2.

RELATED: Majority of open officer-involved shootings, investigated by state, are in Northeast Ohio

It’s unclear why Ashtabula sheriff and police are not adopting the unified standards. The sheriff ignored News 5’s calls. The police chief refused our repeated interview requests.

Moore and Dunn said they do not have information as to why they, and others, don’t participate. 

“I need to know why this happened, why it’s happened so much in Ashtabula,” said Cox.

“We believe at the end of the day when community and law enforcement are on the same page, it makes everyone safer,” said Moore.