COLUMBUS—Today, Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) presented sponsor testimony on legislation to improve community and police relations in Ohio. Senate Bill 23 would establish the Community Police Relations Commission, require training in community focused de-escalation techniques and require the collection of data on the use of force and racial interaction in Ohio.
 
Recent events in Beavercreek, Cleveland, Ferguson, MO, and New York City have brought attention to the relationships between police and the communities that they are sworn to protect. These incidents indicate a deeper systemic problem that requires a long term solution. 
 
“Across the nation, citizens have taken to the streets to express their concerns regarding the criminal justice system in America—in particular, those impacting citizen and police relations,” stated Senator Thomas. “Based on my experiences I felt compelled to introduce legislation that will provide short term but meaningful impact, and long-term, data-driven solutions.”
 
As a veteran of the Cincinnati Police Department, and former Executive Director of the Cincinnati Human Relations Committee, Senator Thomas was instrumental in diffusing civil unrest in Cincinnati in 2001.

“The spark that ignited the powder keg was the shooting of an unarmed black male by a white Cincinnati police officer,” stated Thomas. “At that time, the relationship between the African American community and the police was at an all-time low. Now fourteen years later and through that experience, Cincinnati has a model, supported by empirical data that has improved community and police relations and can be an example for use statewide.”

Senate Bill 23 takes steps to improve community and police relations using a three-pronged approach:

Establish Community Police Relations Commission

  • Establishes the 18-member Ohio Community-Policy Relations Commission (non-compensated) to investigate and evaluate the circumstances and standards surrounding the use of force in police response to conflict situations and recommend best practices.  The Committee shall consist of the following members or their designee:
    • The President of  the Fraternal Order of Police;
    • The President of the Ohio State Troopers Association;
    • The President of the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association;
    • The President of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police;
    • One representative of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP;
    • One representative of the ACLU of Ohio;
    • One representative of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association;
    • One representative of the office of the Ohio Public Defender;
    • Four representatives of local government appointed by the Governor: one county, one city, one suburban city or township, and one rural village, township or county.  Not more than two of the representatives of local government shall be members of the same political party. 
    • Two members of the House of Representatives, one appointed by the Speaker and one by the Minority leader;
    • Two members of the Senate, one appointed by the President and one by the Minority leader;
    • One representative designated by the Governor;
    • The President of the Ohio Student Association.
  • Appropriates $700,000 in 2015 to develop the Community Police Relations Commission which will be housed in the Judicial Conference.

 
Require Training in Community Oriented De-Escalation Techniques

  • Requires that peace officers and troopers, as a part of their annual 24-hour continuing professional training, complete a minimum of six hours over a three year period in each of the areas of de-escalation techniques, mental health and special condition response, and cultural sensitivity.
  • Appropriates $15 million in 2015 to the Law Enforcement Assistance Program to fund continuing education training requirements at $20 per hour per officer.

 
Require Data Collection on Use Force and Racial Interaction

  • Requires the race, age and gender of one or more individuals be recorded after each officer related incident if the law enforcement agency requires a report to be filed.
  • Requires a law enforcement officer who issues a traffic ticket to record the perceived race of the individual. 
  • Requires a law enforcement agency to file a report with the Attorney General and the Department of Public Safety if the actions of a law enforcement officer resulted or have alleged to have resulted in: the death of the individual; physical injury to the individual; a request for medical assistance; the offer or provision of medical assistance to an individual. 

“This bill is not a final solution to the issues that need to be addressed, but it is a good starting point for our state to work toward better community and police relations,” stated Thomas. “I look forward to further collaborating with my colleagues in the Senate and the House on this most important legislation.”

Senator Thomas represents Ohio’s 9th district, which includes parts of Cincinnati, St. Bernard, Elmwood Place, Norwood, Golf Manor, Hollydale, Columbia Township, Silverton and Springfield Township.

 

 
 
 
  
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