Ohio police reform bill to be introduced

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 4:24 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVG) - Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Wednesday a police reform bill will be introduced in the coming days.

Ohio State Representative Phil Plummer has been working on the law enforcement reform package with the help of Attorney General Dave Yost, law enforcement organizations, and community activists. It will be introduced into the Ohio House in the coming days in an effort to increase transparency and accountability in policing.

The reform bill has a number of components, including the establishment of a police oversight board as well as a “use of force” and “officer discipline” database.

The police oversight board would provide an avenue to suspend or revoke licenses for officers who are not meeting standards. DeWine said it’s time policing had a method for accountability similar to other professions like health care workers or lawyers.

The use of force database would create one central location for police departments to report all use of force cases. Its creation would allow officials to track patterns among individual officers or departments and inform what changes may be needed to policy or training. In addition, police departments would be able to consult the database to make hiring decisions.

“In the situation we have now, a person can go from one police department to another, and if they left under bad terms and an officer doesn’t report that he worked at the other law enforcement agency... the new law enforcement agency may have no idea that he had worked for another agency,” said DeWine.

The legislation also seeks to require independent investigations for any serious incident involving a police officer in an effort to increase public confidence in the results.

The governor said it’s important to reexamine police training policy and create statewide standards as well as encourage annual training opportunities for all officers. In addition to more training, he said the legislation would require specified training for implicit bias, de-escalation, and use of force training. He believes that funding for training needs to be provided by an independent source.

The announcement comes on the heels of the police killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus yesterday and the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial for the killing of George Floyd.

“As we go forward as a nation, there is a lot for us to learn from this great tragedy,” DeWine said. “George Floyd’s death laid bare some of our deepest divisions in our country. Our goal... should be to work every day to bring us together as a people, as a country.”

DeWine said he’s hopeful the legislation will pass despite previous reform attempts stalling because the bill embodies “common sense” changes that police and civil rights activists can agree on.

“If passed, it would put Ohio at the forefront of this fight,” DeWine said. “It shows we’re serious about it.”

DeWine’s administration has made executive actions on police reform in the past including banning chokeholds, unless deadly force would be otherwise authorized, purchasing body cameras for Ohio State Highway Patrol officers, and developed standards for law enforcement responses to mass protests.

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