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Historic Police Standards Set, But Work Just Starting On Improving Police-Community Relations

For the first time, Ohio’s law enforcement agencies now have a set of minimum standards for the use of deadly force and for recruitment and hiring. 

As Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, the panel that set those standards says there’s a lot more work ahead.

The development of the standards is the first milestone for a panel that was talked about last year, after the deadly police involved shootings of John Crawford in a Wal-Mart near Dayton and 12 year old Tamir Rice in a park in Cleveland. The police community task force has been meeting since its official creation in April, and finalized the minimum standards on Friday. The task force had a deadline of agreeing on the standards by September 3.

But co-chair John Born, the head of the state’s Department of Public Safety, says those standards are just the first step. “Of course the other elements of that include the awareness within an agency, the proficiency within an agency and then making sure the agency takes action when someone within that agency steps outside that policy,” Born said.

One of the standards states that “the preservation of human life is of the highest value in Ohio”. It goes on to say that police should use deadly force only when in defense of themselves or others. Another standard states that officers may only use the force that’s reasonably necessary in lawful arrests and stopping offenders who are trying to escape. And another standard also directs law enforcement agencies to recruit and hire qualified people while providing equal employment opportunity – and that diverse communities should strive for a workforce that resembles the population. Michael Navarre is the police chief of Oregon near Toledo – where he also served as chief. And he admits this is just a start in improving relations between police and communities. “This isn’t going to solve the problem. But it’s going to help mold policy statements and it’s going to help form a basis for training that will be used around the state,” Navarre said.

There was some tension in the discussion as the African American members of the panel, who stressed the standards had to address concerns of community members and not just of law enforcement. The panel is also co-chaired by former state Sen. Nina Turner, an African-American Democrat of Cleveland and the mother of a police officer. She says she sees both sides. “There’s a difference between what is legally allowed but what is morally right,” said Turner. “And that tension, I think, is going to continue and that is what the community struggles with – whether or not they understand what is legally allowed but in their mind they know what it morally right. And we have to bridge the gap between those two, and it’s the collaborative’s job to lead on that.”

And Navarre agrees that the next step is to put the standards into action – perhaps by law. “At some point, there’s going to be mandates in training – that’s coming down the road because unfortunately, there are some departments that don’t do a very good job of training their officers right now. And that’s important – that’s really what it comes down to is training.”

Public Safety Director John Born said most departments met or exceeded the standards that the panel put in place. But Attorney General Mike DeWine has convened a separate task force that’s examining training of police officers around the state.

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