Ohio gov announces first-ever police standards board

Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Associated Press

Columbus, Ohio — A first-ever Ohio police standards board will lay out rules for law enforcement over the proper use of deadly force, Gov. John Kasich announced Wednesday in a move sparked by a series of fatal police shootings, including the November death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

The 12-member Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board will create standards for hiring, recruiting and local community interaction — such as such as addressing safety issues and educating people on the daily challenges faced by officers — Kasich said.

Kasich said the state will heal its communities and “get ahead of the curve” of problems that have happened in other communities.

“It is not acceptable to have these divisions between our friends in the African-American community and law enforcement,” the governor said. “It is not acceptable to have a gap. We will bridge this gap.”

Other standards will deal with effective lines of communication between police and citizens and strategies for how both police and the communities they serve can hold each other accountable for their actions, Kasich said.

The board, which will be composed of police and community members, will issue an annual report on its work and whether local police agencies are following the standards.

The governor said he believes departments will comply but he’s willing to pressure agencies personally if they don’t. Kasich said there’s a cost to creating the standards, and he will seek new money to fund them, though perhaps not in this year’s budget proposal.

The announcement came as Kasich accepted recommendations from a police and community relations panel he created following protests over a series of police-involved shootings in Ohio and nationally.

Those include the Nov. 22 death of Rice, fatally shot by police while holding a pellet gun outside a Cleveland recreation center; the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Missouri; and the Aug. 5 shooting of John Crawford III, 22, killed by a police officer while holding an air rifle in a Wal-Mart in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek.

Rice, Crawford and Brown all were black; the officers who shot them were white.

The task force emphasized accountability, trust, training and education. The panel’s broad categories of possible changes to police departments include mandatory use of force standards and minimum statewide hiring policies.

Nina Turner, a former state senator from Cleveland, praised Kasich for taking action “in times of peace” as opposed to other communities that were forced to react to problems. Ohio has seen protests over shootings of unarmed blacks in the past few months but nothing on the scale of violence in Ferguson or Baltimore, where riots erupted Monday after a black man died from a spinal injury while in police custody.

The panel created by Kasich that led to Wednesday’s announcement “came together because we wanted to unite to bring our collective energies, our collective knowledge, and our collective influence to bear to lift the citizens of the state of Ohio,” said Turner, a panel co-chairwoman who is black.

A related task force created by state Attorney General Mike DeWine has recommended substantially more police training and streamlining the number of training academies.

The governor’s panel also plans to focus on enhancing an understanding of police policies and procedures and on reviewing the state grand jury process in police use of force situations.