(The Center Square) — As lawmakers in Ohio work toward enacting police reform, it remains unclear what the legislature will accomplish.
Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature have offered proposals for reform, while Gov. Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost also offered a recommendation. However, the push for police reform has predictably divided the legislature along party lines.
Ayesha Bell Hardaway, assistant professor of law at Case Western Reserve University, said transparency is the key to any improvements.
“I agree with the governor that we have to improve accountability, training and transparency,” Hardaway said in an interview with The Center Square. “But I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that without transparency, none of the accountability measures are really going to take hold.”
Hardaway said the governor’s proposals are a good start, but she questioned whether they will increase transparency.
“The short answer is, I don’t have a lot of hope that any of the reforms that come out of the legislature will actually increase transparency, and therefore without the transparency, the accountability is nearly impossible,” Hardaway said.
“There is a great resistance towards doing anything that the police departments or the lobbyers for the police departments or the unions on behalf of the police officers for doing anything that they perceive as being hostile to the status quo,” she added.
Democrats’ proposals include banning chokeholds, demilitarizing the police and prohibiting the use of arrest and citation quotas.
“We have an opportunity to close gaps and inequities, and make minor changes that will have major impacts,” state Rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, said in a statement last week. “We want to increase diversity within police departments and help make them more representative of the community they serve.”
Republicans countered with a proposal that includes increased hiring of minority officers, the creation of a statewide disciplinary database and terminating officers convicted of a violent crime.
“The vast majority of the men and women of law enforcement are professionals. They put their lives on the line every day to protect and to serve,” state Rep. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, a former Cincinnati police officer, said in a statement. “This bill will help improve public safety and law enforcement.”
Al Moreno, a former Los Angeles police officer and author of “L.A.’s Last Street Cop,” said standardized training nationwide would help.
“I think that’s a wonderful idea, but the problem is you’re talking about budgets,” Moreno said in an interview with The Center Square. “A lot of the smaller departments, which is the majority of them by the way, they don’t have the budget for that.
“There has to be change. The society changes. The norms change, and I think that that’s essential,” Moreno said, adding that many at the moment do not want to have candid conversations around many of the topics required for change.
“It’s just nobody is willing, at this juncture, to do that, and that is going to destroy the United States of America unless this ship turns around,” Moreno said.
Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square