COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday a new standard of deadly force for police departments in the state.
Following nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death this summer, the governor felt there was a need for conversations to unfold about policing.
“George Floyd’s death is the culmination of many events,” he tweeted on May 29. “As he lay on the ground dying, he was a victim representing so many others before him. His death impacts us all. We have a responsibility to each other, regardless of race, to stand up & say we won’t tolerate this conduct.”
At the heart of the protests was a call to examine the cause of Floyd’s death: the use of lethal force by police. Now in order to be certified in the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, police departments will be required to prohibit chokeholds and other vascular restraints in its entirety unless it is out of defense of the officer’s and others lives.
“We must rebuild trust between the public and law enforcement, and these changes continue to build on Ohio’s work to improve community-police relations,” said DeWine in a press release. “Law enforcement agencies that are certified in the Ohio Collaborative’s standards show commitment to following, and oftentimes exceeding, Ohio’s best practices for serving and protecting our diverse communities.”
Columbus PD, a member of the Collaborative and the state’s largest police department, already banned the use of chokeholds as of its July-revised Use of Force Directive, referring to the technique to be “untrained” and to be only used when a life is under duress.
When such a restraint is needed, the order states that pressure should be placed on the shoulder or the middle of the back and never purposefully on the neck.
In Scioto County, three police departments- Portsmouth, New Boston and Shawnee State University- belong to the Collaborative formed in 2015. According to the release, 471 law enforcement agencies or 94% of the state’s officers belong to the organization which addresses the use of force, community engagement, body-worn cameras and bias-free policing.
None of the departments have been re-certified this year and are at varying stages in terms of group standards. New Boston PD belongs to Group 3, meaning they have policy in place for bias-free policing and employee misconduct along with the six other standards of the Collaborative. SSU PD and Portsmouth PD are certified through Group 2 and in the process of Group 1 certification, respectively.
While three out of the county’s four law enforcement agencies are in the process of certification, only 28% of the county’s 2010 population of 79,499 is covered and 42% of its officers are part of the program. The Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, an agency of 80 officers according to the document, is not certified.
This announcement is not legally-binding just yet as it requires action by the General Assembly. One such action could come through State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown and Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, who filed legislation in June that would criminalize the use of chokeholds by law enforcement.
Referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee, House Bill 716 would define strangulation as a felony of the third degree and has the backing of the 22 members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus who co-sponsored the bill.
“A chokehold is a maneuver which has shown time and time again to have lethal consequences. All too often it has become a death sentence for citizens who have not even received due process of law,” said Galonski, the bill like the New York State Assembly’s Eric Gardner Anti-Chokehold Act. “Law enforcement professionals are able to restrain a suspect without using potentially lethal means. That is how we ensure proper service, protection and due process of law.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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