(The Center Square) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost offered their recommendations for reforming police departments, adding to proposals from both Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature.
DeWine and Yost, both Republicans, called on state lawmakers to require a qualified third-party agency to investigate officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths statewide and to enact a law enforcement oversight and accountability board that includes members of the public.
They also want lawmakers to identify “a permanent funding stream” for officer training. Yost announced the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) Special Investigations Unit will form a team to investigate officer-involved shootings; BCI currently investigates when requested by a local policing agency.
“Authority is always given for the benefit of others,” Yost said in a news release. “These reforms will help focus our society’s grant of authority on that service to others.”
House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, quickly dismissed the proposal, saying black lawmakers were not involved in the process.
“The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus has for years been calling for police reforms. We sat on task forces; we offered suggestions; we introduced legislation – and we were met with inaction,” Sykes said in a statement.
“Black lawmakers weren’t consulted or given the opportunity to offer input on the governor’s recommendations,” Sykes continued. “In fact, the first contact the governor had with OLBC regarding these recommendations was on a conference call just hours before today’s announcement.”
Sykes said the governor and Republican lawmakers “don’t seem interested in truly listening to Black Ohioans. They think they have the answers to hundreds of years of racism, brutality and oppression. They do not.”
Last week, state Reps. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, and Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, a pair of lawmakers with law enforcement backgrounds, announced their plans to reform law enforcement.
It called for standardized disciplinary processes across departments and an increase in the hiring of minority officers. The lawmakers also called for a statewide disciplinary database for police officers and a review of compensation.
“We appreciate the comments of Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost,” Plummer and Abrams said in a joint statement.
“The 15-point legislation we introduced last week is the beginning of what we expect will be a robust and thoughtful conversation,” they added. “We look forward to listening to citizens and community leaders from across Ohio as we work toward meaningful change that improves law enforcement and public safety. As we said last week, the status quo isn’t good enough.”
Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square