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House Democratic lawmakers call for hearings on comprehensive police reform bills

Say Republicans must do more than talk to improve community-police relations and keep us all safe
November 2, 2021
Dontavius L. Jarrells News

COLUMBUS—In response to a recent Republican press conference on community engagement with law enforcement, Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Rep. Dontavius Jarrells (D-Columbus) today urged action on comprehensive Democratic legislation to modernize policing in Ohio, improve community-police relations and ensure the safety and security of both officers and the public. Democrats unveiled their proposals in April 2021, which are a key pillar of their Opportunity Agenda for Ohio. Democrats say many of the reforms they introduced are already working to improve policing and public safety in communities and states across the country. 

“Action on police reform is long overdue,” said OLBC President West. “Democrats responded quickly by introducing several pieces of legislation both this year and last year to address the outcry we have heard from our communities, but we still have not received hearings on those bills. I was encouraged to see an increase in funding for officer training as part of the current biennial budget, and I look forward to serving on the Law Enforcement Training Funding Study Commission to ensure a long-term funding solution for that training. I firmly believe we need to support our officers with the training and resources they need to do their jobs well.”

“However, we must also ensure accountability and transparency in our policing. Together, we can implement meaningful reforms to provide that accountability and transparency. By doing that, we will keep our communities and our officers safe.”

Democrats introduced a comprehensive police reform plan earlier this year, which would restore accountability, modernize use-of-force standards and tackle racial bias, including: 

·                        HB 11 (Sheehy, Hicks-Hudson) – Creates a law enforcement officer database for hiring 

·                        HB 113 (Upchurch, J. Miller) – Allows a municipal police chief to conduct officer training school 

·                        HB 134 (West) – Regards peace officer training and resources 

·                        HB 287 (Lepore-Hagan, Galonski) – Creates the offense of strangulation by a law enforcement officer 

·                        HB 293 (Boggs, Galonski) – Prohibits the use of tear gas by peace officers

·                        HB 307 (West, Leland) – Prohibits law enforcement agencies from using quotas 

·                        HB 331 (K. Smith, Blackshear) – Requires certain law enforcement officers to wear visible badges, ID 

·                        HB 332 (West, Denson) – Regards qualified immunity for peace officers, indemnification 

·                        HB 362 (Ingram) – Require peace officer training on emotional intelligence 

·                        HB 367 (Jarrells) – Regards body-worn and dashboard cameras, excessive force

Rep. Jarrells again called for action on Andre’s Law, House Bill (HB) 367, his legislation to require the use of body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras by peace officers. Andre’s Law would also implement use of force provisions. 

“We have heard the calls for police reform across our communities and all over the nation—it is now time for action. We must have efforts to enhance transparency, safety, and accountability for community members and peace officers alike. Meaningful reform and pathways for accountability can begin with the required use of body-worn and dashboard cameras, but this is only the first step,” said Rep. Jarrells. 

Andre’s Law was referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee in September, but has not yet received a hearing. To date, none of the Democratic proposals have received hearings before House committees.