Law enforcementOhio to develop state-wide standards for police use of deadly force
Ohio governor John Kasich has created a 12-member group of community and law enforcement leaders to help draft statewide standards on how police departments should use deadly force. The move comes in the wake of a series of police shootings involving black males.Most police departments in Ohio already have their own policies for deadly force, and some claim a statewide standard might not be an effective solution. Kasich said he would use his powers to pressure police departments in the state to follow the standards recommended by the group.
Ohio governor John Kasich has created a 12-member group of community and law enforcement leaders to help draft statewide standards on how police departments should use deadly force. The move comes in the wake of a series of police shootings involving black males.
Twenty-two year-old John Crawford III of Fairfield was killed by a police officer on 5 August while holding an air rifle in a Dayton-area Walmart. On 9 August, a Ferguson, Missouri police officer shot unarmed eighteen-year-old Michael Brown. In November, twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police while holding a pellet gun outside a Cleveland recreation center.
Most police departments in Ohio already have their own policies for deadly force, and some claim a statewide standard might not be an effective solution. What might work for one agency might not work for another. “We’ve got rural areas, and we’ve got urban areas,” said Mike Weinman, director of government affairs for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.
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The Delhi Township police department approves the use of deadly force if the officer’s life is in imminent danger or if the suspect poses an imminent threat to the life of someone else. Still, “imminent” does not mean “immediate.” The Cincinnati Enquirer points out that even if a suspect is not pointing a weapon at police, the officer can use deadly force — preferably after a verbal warning — if the officer reasonably believes the person plans to and is capable of trying to kill the officer or another person.
“We’re not out to shoot fleeing felons, but there might be a time when you would have to shoot a fleeing suspect,” Delhi Police Chief Jim Howarth said of his officers. “I’m confident they know how to react, but I think we all as human beings have got to realize we make decisions in split seconds. I think you do react the way you’re trained.”
“If someone is running from a law enforcement officer, their life is not at risk, nor probably is anyone else’s,” Kasich said Wednesday, referencing the 4 April death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man shot in the back by a white South Carolina officer as he fled after a traffic stop.
Kasich’s executive order also authorizes the new group to set statewide standards on recruiting and hiring police officers. The group will issue an annual report on its work and whether police departments are following the standards. If police departments fail to comply, Kasich said he is willing to pressure agencies by holding press conferences and taking other measures. Kasich, a Republican, clashed with fellow party members in the state legislature when he proposed the new group. Implementing their proposed standards will cost money and he will likely have to ask the Legislature for funding. State Representative Alicia Reece (D- Bond Hill), president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, has called on legislative leaders to find money not only to implement the future standards but also for economic development and health care for struggling urban communities. “You’re hearing that in Baltimore, that these areas didn’t have any funding,” Reece said. “It behooves us to work together on a total package that includes economic prosperity as well as justice reform.”