Ohio lawmakers look to lower age requirement for police officers

Bills introduced in the Ohio House and Senate would lower the age from 21 to 18 for Ohioans to become an officer.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 11:58 AM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVG) - Proposals in the Ohio statehouse to lower the minimum age requirements for police officers are receiving pushback from the state’s largest police union.

Bills introduced in the House and Senate would lower the age from 21 to 18 for Ohioans to become an officer.

Sponsors of Senate Bill 53 testified this week at the bill’s first hearing that their proposal will help address a shortage of officers. They point to the fact that 18-year-olds can enlist to serve in the U.S. military and said some municipalities already hire at younger ages, including Columbus, which requires officers to be at least 20 years old.

“This bill is a common sense solution,” said Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester). “This bill is simple and impactful, establishing parity for the age at which an Ohioan can protect their fellow Buckeyes at home and abroad.”

The bill wouldn’t force departments to change their current hiring practices if they don’t want to, said Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson),

But Mike Weinman, the director of government affairs for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, said the police union has multiple concerns about the bill, including how it would impact the pension system.

He said there are also concerns that officers as young as 18 would have the maturity to handle complicated issues like domestic violence. In the military, Weinman said, teens have more oversight and supervision than they might as officers in some police departments.

FOP of Ohio leaders shared their concerns with the Senate bill’s sponsors this week, along with Rep. Josh Williams (R-Oregon), who recently introduced a similar bill in the House, Weinman said.

The House bill was assigned to the Homeland Security Committee. It’s unclear if and when it might receive a hearing. There’s also no timetable for when the Senate Government Oversight Committee could hold another hearing on the bill featuring testimony from proponents or opponents.

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