Ohio Gov. DeWine previews sweeping police reform bill

DeWine says the bill set to go before the Ohio General Assembly will create transparency and uniformity in law enforcement throughout the state.
Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 4:54 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Wednesday a forthcoming police reform bill he said will increase accountability and transparency in law enforcement.

The bill will go before the Ohio General Assembly in the coming days, according to the governor.

Among its provisions, the bill would establish a state oversight board for so-called “peace officers” that would have the ability to suspend licenses. “It’s time we do this in law enforcement,” DeWine said.

It would create a centralized use-of-force database, where Ohio’s 1,000-odd law enforcement agencies would report all incidents of force.

The bill would also create a database of officer discipline “to ensure transparency,” DeWine said. This database would be available to departments looking to hire applicants with past disciplinary actions.

The bill would require an independent investigation of all “officer-involved critical incidents,” according to the governor.

Lastly, it would secure an independent, sustainable funding source for law enforcement training and mandate minimum continuing professional training hours in the areas of use-of-force, de-escalation and implicit bias.

”If this bill is passed, it will put Ohio at the forefront,” DeWine argued. “We will be able to say, look, we have gotten serious about this. We respect our policy. A great majority of police do wonderful jobs. We want to make sure that we have the uniformity in policing and that we make it as professional as we can.”

A statement on the issue from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office reads:

“Funding for proper training is incredibly important. At the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, we are currently implementing ABLE training - which stands for Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement - and we are one of only 34 agencies in the country to pilot this program.

“Right now we have 100 uniformed and 8 civilian staff trained. Every person in our department will go through the ABLE training.

“A culture of de-escalation is one that Sheriff McGuffey stands firm on and one that we will continue to embrace at the Sheriff’s Office.”

The governor’s announcement comes one day after a jury convicted former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

“[Floyd’s] death laid bare some of the deep divisions in this country,” DeWine said. “My goal every day is to do what I can do to unite people.”

The governor clarified Wednesday the bill is not a direct reaction to the Chauvin verdict and that it has been in the works for some time.

DeWine worked with Republican state Rep. Phil Plummer of Montgomery County on the bill.

The Attorney General Dave Yost, also a Republican, also worked on the bill, as did veteran law enforcement officers and organizations including the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association. Civil rights leaders and activists were consulted.

DeWine also highlighted previous actions he’s taken on police reform, including a chokehold ban (where deadly force would not otherwise be authorized) and the purchase of body cameras for Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers.

Additionally, legislators are currently considering a $10 million proposal to help local agencies buy body cameras and a $1 million proposal to support local agencies in recruiting women and minorities, DeWine says.

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