Ohio is exploring the possibility of increasing advanced training requirements for all police departments in the upcoming year.
The proposed increase is a result of Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine’s task force known as the Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board. It was designed to fully analyze police procedures in response to the notable fatal shooting cases throughout Ohio.
Several incidents among Cleveland Police including the Michael Brelo and Tamir Rice cases have drawn national media attention, raising the issues of trust between police officers and the communities they serve. As a result, Kasich is looking for the state to step in to set common requirements with all Ohio departments.
“It starts with a change of the culture and some rules for the road,” Kasich said to reporters when signing the executive order which created the board on April 29. “There are some things we can get started today. We will create the first statewide standards on a number of these things.”
These include increasing the time police members spent learning about safety issues – namely excessive force tactics and community-police relations.
Currently, officers are required to train four hours annually at one of the state’s academies but the task force’s original proposal calls for individuals to spend 40 hours per year in training. Along with changing training requirements, the board may also tweak officer hiring procedures.
The incidents that have gained the attention of the governor and national audiences alike may seem far off from Bellville. Seemingly, equally as far off are their consequences.
However, staffing an adequate police force that operates within the budget is an annual concern to officials in the community. The reality of finances leaves the village with a limited payroll that does not allow it to pay officers particularly high wages.
In addition to its four full-time officers, the Bellville Police Department is comprised of 12 part-time/auxiliary officers. The state’s mandatory training increase is especially concerning for those employed at the part-time/auxiliary level. As the proposal stands, it would require non-full-time officers to spend as much time in training as their full-time peers.
“It’s going to be hard to tell our auxiliary officers, who are volunteers, that they have to sacrifice a week of work at their other jobs to go train with the state,” Bellville Mayor Darrell Banks said. “They already do their job without being paid and now we would have to tell them even more will go into being a part of the force.”
In addition to losing perspective police over abundant training requirements, Bellville faces officers jumping to nearby departments who can offer them more money.
Bellville Police Chief Ron Willey says on average, neighboring police departments pay patrolmen $3 to $5 more an hour than Bellville.
Councilperson and head of the Safety Committee Bruce Snyder stated at the June 2 council meeting that the police departments will more than likely lose Officer Joshua Frech to Mansfield City Police. The reported move is over his compensation and benefits.
“We only have so much money we can pay these guys,” Snyder said. “We hope they stay but we understand when they make a decision like this.”
“Officer Frech has said he has enjoyed his time working for Bellville Police,” Mayor Darrell Banks said. “I can’t say for certain that he is leaving, but we just can’t pay him what he has been offered to make elsewhere.”
Frech has served the community since 2011 and is currently one of four full-time officers. He is also one of five who have left the force since 2013, three of which were over compensation concerns.
“We’re used as a stepping stone to bigger departments, if that’s ultimately an officer’s goal,” Willey said. “The Village Council does a good job at supporting us with what they currently have available. However, I think we need to look at what we can do to help retain some of the staff we have trained and invested in, which will save us money by not have to continually retrain new officers. It will also be better from a community policing aspect as well; the community will become familiar with their officers instead of seeing new faces. We’ll never fully be able to stop officers leaving but we certainly need to do something to slow it down.”
With limited personnel, Willey said the department is not able to cover all needed surveillance operations.
“It’s hard to cover some of the things we need to look at because officers are out on patrol and here at the station,” Willey said. “We need to rely on the community to provide us with information. We have a good neighborhood watch program set up on Durbin Avenue and we are looking to expand it to other areas (of the village).”
As for Ohio’s training increase requirements, the proposal is far from concrete but Snyder expressed that a decision from the state could come down within a few months.
“We have to be ready in case it does happen,” he said. “We’re just waiting to see what happens right now but we do have a plan in place. Chief Willey has been doing a good job keeping officers and I’m sure he will even if it does happen.”
“We will just have to see exactly what the board decides to require all of us to do,” Willey said. “How we proceed will be based on what their new requirements will be.”
Jones is the editor of the Bellville Star. You can reach him at (419) 886-2291, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Twitter at @Bellville_Jones.