Republicans: Bill would 'weed out bad actors' in Ohio police

Ohio would create a statewide disciplinary database for violent officers and require psychological testing for all new police under a measure proposed Thursday by House Republicans.

The legislation came as the state grapples with the aftermath of civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Sponsoring Reps. Phil Plummer and Cindy Abrams, who both have previously served in law enforcement roles, said the bill would standardize police training and disciplinary response throughout the state to “weed out the bad actors.”

“It breaks our hearts that good officers are out there on the front lines, defending the actions of bad officers,” said Plummer, R-Dayton.

The bill would create a disciplinary database for police that will ensure officers who commit violent offenses won’t be hired by other departments.

Also, the disciplinary process would be taken out of police hands. Plummer said that instead of having “police investigating police,” the legislation calls for hiring state arbitrators or having common pleas court judges serve that role.

The state attorney general instead of county prosecutors would be tasked with investigating all police-involved shooting cases under the proposal.

The 15-point legislation follows protests across Ohio, the nation and the world after cell phone video showed George Floyd, an unarmed black man, die at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25.

The protests started out peaceful but some turned violent, with police in Ohio’s major cities deploying tear gas and pepper spray to disperse demonstrators. Officers also had to respond to vandalism, arson and smash-and-grab raids on businesses. The protests have since turned mostly peaceful.

Plummer gave credit to protesters who have been fighting for changes in policing for the past two weeks.

“You brought this to our attention and I want you to know, this is not a knee jerk reaction,” Plummer said. “This has been a long time coming.”

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine spoke out about police use of force in the days following the protests. DeWine recommended a centralized state-level board to regulate police as professionals, similar to state-licensed teachers and nurses.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther also announced Thursday that he will be issuing an executive order requiring all police-involved shootings to be investigated by the state's Bureau of Criminal Investigation, in line with the House bill.

Democratic lawmakers in the House are preparing their own police bill, aimed at banning the use of tear gas as well as requiring independent investigations into reports of police misconduct.

Republican lawmakers plan to take their bill on the road for a listening tour with local NAACP groups, faith leaders, police unions and community members.

“Look in the streets,” Plummer said, “Society says enough is enough. The status quo is not good enough anymore.”

In response to recent nationwide calls for defunding police forces, Plummer said, “I want the officers to know, we are not abandoning you. Any chatter of defunding police departments is nonsense.”

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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.