Ohio lawmakers unveil police reform proposals


(The Center Square) – Ohio lawmakers could soon debate a series of measures aimed at reforming police departments across the Buckeye State.

House Republicans on Thursday unveiled proposals to increase the hiring of minority officers and standardize disciplinary processes across departments. They also called for a statewide disciplinary database for police officers, a review of compensation and for the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) to review all police shootings.

“The goal of this legislation is to improve the professional standards in the police departments,” state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, said during a news conference. “Ninety percent of our officers are great officers; they do their jobs properly. We need to weed out the bad officers.

“It breaks my heart … that the good officers are right now on the skirmish lines handling the protest of the actions of a bad officer,” Plummer, a former sheriff of Montgomery County, added. “They’re now put in bad situations because of bad officers, and I think we all in this room can agree we need to weed out the bad officers.”

Plummer unveiled the proposal with state Rep. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, a former police officer in Cincinnati.

“We can do better,” Plummer said. “Changes are needed; the status quo is not good enough.”

Police reform has taken on new urgency nationwide in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

The announcement comes after House Democrats said they are considering proposals that would demilitarize the police, eliminate arrest quotas and maintain an employment database of all police officers. They are also looking at a bill that would require police to wear “clearly visible and easily traceable identification at all times,” according to a news release.

“Like the countless protestors who have taken to the streets outside the statehouse screaming for justice, our caucus is also determined to seek justice inside these walls and realize the true Ohio Promise,” House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said in a statement. “Racism did not just happen overnight and it will not be eradicated overnight. But as more and more join the fight, we need to all come together and channel the range of feelings we are experiencing right now – anger, sadness, frustration, shame, hopelessness – and enact meaningful change. Black Ohioans cannot do it alone anymore, we must move forward together.

“We believe one of the first, and most immediate, steps we need to take is reforming how we police in this state,” she added.

This week, House Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine, urging him to ban police departments’ use of tear gas.

“Over the past few weeks we have seen peaceful protesters being subjected to militant police violence via Rubber bullets, baton beatings, and tear gassing mass gatherings of peaceful protesters,” state Rep. Janine Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights, said in a statement. “This isn’t the 1960’s or a war-torn country. This is 2020 in the United States of America. This is Ohio.”

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Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square

Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square