Here’s a look at mandated police officer training in Ohio after activist sues state

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 9:10 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Cleveland activist has made explosive allegations, suing the state for alleged lack of police officer training.

Mariah Crenshaw and the advocacy group Chasing Justice claim most police officers in Ohio are not completing the minimum training required by state law.

But despite that, Crenshaw alleges state leaders have allowed them to keep patrolling.

After five years of research, she said she has the documents to prove it.

“It’s no longer acceptable to turn head and cover this up,” Crenshaw said at a press conference.

In light of this, 19 Investigates is digging into what it takes to keep our officers up-to-date on training.

We turned to one of the people who would know best.

Jeff Scott, a retired police chief and former executive director of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, known as OPOTA.

He was in this position in 2019.

“Well, the first thing we need to address is if those officers don’t get the training that they deserve, they’re not only putting themselves at risk, but they’re also putting citizens at risk, because they don’t have what it takes sometimes to deal with those certain circumstances or situations,” Scott said.

Ohio law states there must be funding in order to mandate continued professional training, or CPT, for police officers, usually 24 to 40 hours a year.

19 Investigates found there has been no funding, and therefore no police mandated training from 2018 to 2021.

That means during these years, training has only been recommended.

“And training should never be a question, but training seems to always be the first thing that gets cut from budgets,” Scott said.

It’s a problem top public safety officials recently addressed during at a meeting of the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board on November 17.

We learned a task force is looking into long-term funding.

“You know CPT in Ohio is only required if there’s funding. And that’s something everyone wants to fix at some point and time,” said Karen Huey, assistant director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

So what happens if police officers don’t complete mandatory training by the end of the year, when it is funded? This was also addressed at that meeting.

“They go into what’s called a cease function. They have to stop carrying a weapon, they must no longer enforce the laws, they basically become a rock on a table somewhere until they complete it,” said Dwight Holcomb, current executive director of OPOTA.

But that, Scott said, should be enforced locally.

He said under Ohio law, the state is essentially powerless.

Scott said Mariah Crenshaw came to him with these allegations during his time at OPOTA and his hands were tied.

He believes what she found should be investigated.

“We learned that we’ve got officers that have cease function statuses that are still out on the street to this day, which should be highly concerning to any community or citizen, that we’ve got officers out on the street shouldn’t even be there in the first place,” Scott said.

Scott thinks the state needs to do an audit of police agencies across Ohio to fix the problem and get officers up to date on their training.

19 Investigates has learned there is $15 million in funding for police training in 2022.

We reached out to the four officials named in the lawsuit, including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Dwight Holcomb, Executive Director of OPOTA.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which oversees OPOTA, told us they received the complaint earlier this week and they’re in the process of reviewing it.

State Auditor Keith Faber’s office says they’re reviewing the claims and can’t comment on ongoing litigation.

And Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley’s office said they “decline to comment.”

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