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Gov. DeWine recommends officer licensing process, independent investigations, more training, other reforms

Also suggests ban on chokeholds, unless life is in danger
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Posted at 2:56 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 06:55:12-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced several steps that he is asking the Ohio General Assembly to take to improve training, accountability and transparency at all law enforcement departments in the state.

Gov. DeWine made the following recommendations to lawmakers in the Ohio legislature:

  • Before training to become a law enforcement officer, the applicant must first pass a psychological test.
  • Establishment of a permanent funding stream for law enforcement training so that all officers in Ohio can receive further training, as opposed to the current patchwork of training that currently exists.
  • Creation of a standard definition of a “use of force incident,” and creation of a public database to track and house statistics and public incident reports involving use of force incidents.
  • The ban of chokeholds by law enforcement officers in Ohio unless it is determined that the officer was justified in using deadly force to protect their life or the life of another.
  • All officer-involved shooting and in-custody deaths should be investigated independently by an outside agency.
  • Independent prosecution of all officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths by an outside agency.
  • The legislature should examine how the state can help all local law enforcement departments in Ohio outfit officers with body cameras and fund the storage of body camera footage.
  • The establishment of a professional licensing process for law enforcement officers, similar to licenses given to other professionals like doctors and lawyers, that can be suspended and revoked by an accountability board if officers in Ohio do not adhere to a standard code of conduct. Officers who fail to report violations by other officers would also be disciplined.

DeWine said that he is already taking some steps within his power as the state’s governor, including:

  • This year, the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services will fund six additional hours of de-escalation training for officers in Ohio.
  • The Ohio State Highway Patrol has been directed to no longer investigate use of force incidents themselves; the Attorney General’s Office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigations will now conduct independent investigations on these incidents.
  • He has directed troopers to begin outfitting troopers with body cameras.

Local diversity and legal experts were cautiously optimistic about the DeWine policing plan, but said more can be added to help reduce police use-of-force issues statewide, and improve police relations with the African American community.

Ayesha Bell Hardaway, Case Western Reserve University Associate Professor of Law, and Director of the Social Justice Law Center is pleased with the establishment of a police professional licensing board, and required independent investigations of all officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.

But Bell Hardaway pointed to some failures by other state professional boards in the past.

“The Governor really demonstrated some urgency and recognition on his part,” Bell Hardaway said.

“The creation of a police licensing board I think is innovative in a lot of ways, but again depending upon the composition of the board, the willingness of the board to hold officers to task.

“It’s one thing to say something is going to be independent, it’s an entirely different thing for the policies and the procedures to be put in place.”

Ronnie Dunn, Ph.D., Cleveland State Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Professor told News 5 the creation of a public database to track use of force incidents is a big step, but the database should track all officer encounters.

“I’m please to see the establishment of the statewide database,” Dunn said.

“But along with that we need data collection on all police initiated interactions, traffic stops, pedestrian stops and more."

"I would have loved to have seen legislation prohibiting racial profiling across the state, I think that is a foundational component.”

This is a developing story and will be updated with more information.