Skip to main content
State Seal State Seal State Seal
Home Button Home Button Home Button

African American lawmakers push for state action on justice reform

Layout justice reform agenda to guide state, community efforts
May 21, 2015
Democrat Newsroom

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President and State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) joined OLBC members today to call for justice reform and to urge the governor to release an action report on executive efforts toward reform in Ohio. The justice reform agenda* developed by the OLBC aims to guide state and community efforts in dialogue and action between communities of color and the state justice system.

“Public outcry and civil unrest following the police-led deaths of unarmed African American men has started a new public dialogue surrounding police-community relations and the need for justice reform immediately in Ohio and throughout the nation,” said Rep. Reece. “We need to take hold of a moment in time when Americans and Ohioans are crying out for meaningful justice reform that keeps us safe, treats citizens fairly and restores faith in our justice system. Now is the time to take action for real justice reform.” 

OLBC and community leaders are calling for changes in police and law enforcement training, including increased mental health training for peace officers, a greater degree of diversity at the at the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy and community-police partnership incubators that allow communities and law enforcement officials to discuss best practices and create community-based solutions specific to neighborhoods and cities across Ohio.

“I am eagerly anticipating movement on improving community-police relations, restoring confidence in our justice system, and the commitment of resources to ensure reforms are implemented,” said Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati). “It is time that we act on the findings of the Governor’s Task Force and maintain an awareness of community dynamics across the State of Ohio.” 

Also among the OLBC’s action agenda items is an effort to change the state’s Grand Jury process through Ohio’s Constitutional Modernization Commission, requiring law enforcement to be equipped with body cameras, collecting social demographic data from police interactions to identify discriminatory policing tactics and reforming the death penalty.  

“Change comes with action, not promises,” said Rep. Christie Kuhns (D-Cincinnati). “While I applaud the governor’s executive order, our communities deserve a full and thorough follow-through of the recommendations from the Task Force on Community-Police Relations.” 

As part of the comprehensive action plan, OLBC President Alicia Reece and members are urging Gov. Kasich to release a report on the current status of executive action taken by his administration following recommendations issued by the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations last month. The governor’s executive order created a board to develop and oversee minimum standards and best practices for police departments throughout the state. 

Here is what other members of OLBC are saying about the need for justice reform: 

“I applaud the work of the Governor's Taskforce on Community and Police Relations, but we want to ensure that the report and recommendations do not sit on a shelf. We studied, recommended and now it is time for action, followed by ongoing education and enforcement.”—Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) 

“The trust between law enforcement and the people they serve and protect is critical to the safety of our officers and the integrity of our criminal justice system. I look forward to continued conversations with law enforcement, community members and elected officials about how we can get this right in Ohio.”—House Democratic Whip Kevin L. Boyce (D-Columbus) 

“I’m pleased to see the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission is considering examining the effectiveness of the grand jury. I will be following the commission’s progress, but I have high hopes they will be able to recommend ways to modernize Ohio’s judiciary process. Transparency is my main focus and I believe at minimum the Court should allow transcripts to be publicly available, ensure the independence of grand jury stenographers, and require the presence of a judge.”--Senator Sandra R. Williams (D-Cleveland) 

“It is of utmost importance for our communities to trust the men and women have dedicated their lives to protecting and serving the community. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, The 131st general assembly, and the administration to implement practical solutions in improving the relationship between police and the community. The future of our state depends on it.”—State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) 

“Our call to action requires that the state take meaningful and substantive steps toward improving police-community relations while making changes that will help restore faith in our justice system.” –Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland)