COLUMBUS— Ohio House Democrats, led by Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), are acting swiftly to respond to the thousands of concerned voices being raised in cities and towns throughout Ohio by announcing today their preliminary legislative plans to combat police brutality. The proposed bills would prohibit profiling, tear gas, and the use of quotas by all law enforcement agencies, as well as call for the independent investigation of officer-involved shootings and the creation of databases to better track problematic behavior and employment history of law enforcement officers.
“Like the countless protestors who have taken to the streets outside the statehouse screaming for justice, our caucus is also determined to seek justice inside these walls and realize the true Ohio Promise,” Leader Sykes said. “Racism did not just happen overnight and it will not be eradicated overnight. But as more and more join the fight, we need to all come together and channel the range of feelings we are experiencing right now – anger, sadness, frustration, shame, hopelessness – and enact meaningful change. Black Ohioans cannot do it alone anymore, we must move forward together.
We believe one of the first, and most immediate, steps we need to take is reforming how we police in this state. We call on our Republican colleagues and law enforcement agencies to work with us to address this very real and very pressing problem.
We also call on House Republican leadership to move quickly on HCR 31 and declare racism a public health emergency. This resolution is more than a declaration—it has actionable steps to engage communities of color and actively work to dismantle racism by promoting equity in government and society. This resolution puts us on the path to securing the Ohio Promise not just for some of us, but for all of us—especially people of color. It is desperately needed right now and we applaud our colleagues in the Senate for recognizing the urgency and giving it a hearing this morning.”
House Democrats are currently considering the following bills to address police and civil justice reform:
- A bill that would demilitarize the police by prohibiting Ohio police departments from benefitting from the federal 1099 program, which allows the DOD to offload excess and surplus military weapons & equipment to police departments at little to no cost;
- A bill that would prohibit law enforcement agencies from profiling and requires annual racial or other biased-based police training;
- A bill to prohibit the use of arrest or citation quotas by all law enforcement agencies;
- A bill regarding de-escalation and mental health training;
- A bill to require that all officer-involved shootings and other officer misconduct be independently investigated;
- A bill to create a centralized excessive use of force database that would require all law enforcement agencies to report officer-involved shootings and injuries;
- A bill that requires the Attorney General to maintain a database showing the employment history of police officers;
- A bill to require police officers wear clearly visible and easily traceable identification at all times;
- And a bill to prohibit the use of tear gas by law enforcement.
Additionally, House Democrats are calling on the United States Congress to pass the Congressional Black Caucus’ Justice in Policing Act – the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives.
The Justice in Policing Act would, at the federal level:
1) Establish a national standard for the operation of police departments;
2) Mandate data collection on police encounters;
3) Reprogram existing funds to invest in transformative community-based policing programs; and
4) Streamline federal law to prosecute excessive force and establish independent prosecutors for police investigations.
It is supported by 166 U.S. Representatives and 35 U.S. Senators.