Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) issued a statement following Gov. DeWine’s announced police reform recommendations Wednesday:
“The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus has for years been calling for police reforms. We sat on task forces; we offered suggestions; we introduced legislation—and we were met with inaction,” Leader Sykes said.
“Black lawmakers weren’t consulted or given the opportunity to offer input on the governor’s recommendations. In fact, the first contact the governor had with OLBC regarding these recommendations was on a conference call just hours before today’s announcement.
“These are not the recommendations of Black lawmakers—far from it. What we want is to uplift the voices of Black Ohioans who we have heard from at protests, community meetings, and in everyday interactions. Statehouse Republicans, from the governor to the speaker, don’t seem interested in truly listening to Black Ohioans. They think they have the answers to hundreds of years of racism, brutality and oppression. They do not.”
While the governor’s recommendations focus primarily on policing, Democrats say that is just one aspect of needed reforms, pointing to their HCR 31, which would declare racism a public health crisis in Ohio.
HCR 31 would provide tools to engage with communities of color on issues of racism as well as promoting racially equitable economic and workforce development practices. The resolution also calls for a promotion and encouragement of policies that prioritize the health of people of color, among other provisions. Republican House leadership has refused to hold a single hearing on the resolution.
Additionally, House Democrats last week announced they will introduce a comprehensive bill package to address both police and civil justice reform. Some of the proposals include:
- Demilitarizing police;
- Prohibiting law enforcement agencies from profiling and requiring annual racial or other biased-based police training;
- Prohibiting the use of arrest or citation quotas by all law enforcement agencies;
- Expanding de-escalation and mental health training;
- Requiring independent investigations of all officer-involved shootings and other misconduct;
- Creating a centralized excessive use of force database;
- Requiring the Attorney General to maintain a database showing the employment history of police officers;
- Requiring police officers to wear clearly visible and easily traceable identification;
- Prohibiting the use of tear gas by law enforcement.