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In-Depth: Ohio Attorney General, experts call for tougher police licensing standards

Posted at 10:31 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 13:20:18-04

CLEVELAND — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost called for licensing police officers with tougher standards and accountability for their conduct during his annual law enforcement conference.

The Attorney General also stressed the need for more funding for police training to help officers in Ohio better deal with the public while out on the job.

Prof. Patrick Oliver, Director of the Criminal Justice Program at Cedarville University and a former Cleveland police chief, told News 5 he agrees with the Attorney General's efforts.

Prof. Oliver said technically Ohio peace officers are already issued a state certification, so it’s a licensed profession, but said adding licensing requirements and making officers subject to de-certification is an important step, especially if an officer loses a job due to misconduct or incompetence, and the then tries to get a job with another Ohio police department.

“That should trigger a review by the state peace officers training board to determine if they want to certify that officer or not,” Oliver said. “In cases where a police officer is involved in assault, drunk driving, or domestic violence, it should also trigger a license review.”

Prof. Oliver agrees additional funding for police training is needed, including “mental health training, conflict management and cultural bias training."

“Implicit bias training is crucial, because we all have implicit bias, and that’s a hidden bias, bias we don’t recognize we have, and so every peace officer needs to understand that, get training on that.”

Cleveland State University Chief Diversity Officer Prof. Ronnie Dunn told News 5 higher police licensing standards are needed but said tracking police conduct through a state database would make a significant difference in identifying the small number of problem officers.

“We need data collection on all police-initiated interactions, traffic stops, pedestrian stops and more," Dunn said.

The Attorney General's office told News 5 there is more coming soon on the issues of licensing and funds for training. Both of those issues - and others - will need to be addressed by the General Assembly.