COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine has directed a state task force to develop new minimum standards for how police should respond to mass protests.
DeWine, speaking during a briefing Tuesday, also said he’s creating a new Ohio Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment to encourage the recruitment and hiring of people of color for law-enforcement jobs.
The governor’s announcements follow protests in Ohio cities and around the country in response to the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis resident who was killed by a police officer on May 25. There have been complaints that police wrongly deployed tear gas and pepper spray to disperse peaceful protests.
DeWine’s Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board has already recommended other best practices for law enforcement, including for community engagement, body cameras, bias-free policing, employee conduct, and tele-communicators.
Hundreds of Ohio police departments have voluntarily implemented statewide use-of-force standards developed by a bipartisan task force created in 2015 after the police-involved shootings of Tamir Rice in Cleveland and John Crawford III near Dayton. But the standards aren’t mandatory, and 21 percent of Ohio officers work for a department that hasn’t adopted the standards, DeWine said.
DeWine said the Ohio Department of Public Safety will contact every police department in the state that has not yet agreed to abide by the standards and work to implement them.
Asked whether there will be penalties for law-enforcement agencies that don’t agree to adopt the standards, DeWine said he wanted to first wait and see how many agencies voluntarily sign up for them.
Last week, DeWine said is working with state lawmakers to increase oversight over law-enforcement agencies in the state — including licensing police the same way the state licenses teachers, nurses, and other professions. The governor said Tuesday that he’s still talking with legislative leaders about a number of reform measures.
However, the governor said it would be “frankly absurd” to defund the police, as many in Minneapolis and around the country have called for.
Earlier on Tuesday, Attorney General Dave Yost told cleveland.com that he too will ask state lawmakers to enact police reforms, including requiring every police department in the state to have a use-of-force policy and changing how investigations of police-caused deaths are conducted.
Also on Tuesday, 22 Ohio House Democrats signed a letter to DeWine asking him to ban the use of tear gas by all county, municipal and township police departments. The lawmakers noted that the use of tear gas, as a chemical weapon, is banned in wartime under the Geneva Protocol and can cause injury, disability, or death.