State Reps. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Christie Kuhns (D-Cincinnati) this week introduced a justice reform measure to ensure fair, independent investigations when a law enforcement officer uses deadly force. The legislative proposal follows the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s grand jury investigation into the police-led deadly shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice last November. The grand jury ultimately declined to bring charges against the officers involved.
“Communities must be able to believe that when an officer takes the life of a civilian, an independent and fair investigation will provide answers and facts that can be trusted,” said Boyd. “This bill will help restore faith in the justice system by cutting down on questions of bias or partiality during these types of investigations.”
The new legislation would require that at least two outside law enforcement officials conduct investigations into an officer’s use of deadly force. The outside investigators would be required to come from jurisdictions separate than that of the officer under investigation.
Upon completion of an investigation, a report will be submitted to the local prosecutor. If it is determined that no crime was committed, the report must be made available to the public.
“The introduction of our bill is a necessary action in creating greater public trust in our criminal justice system,” said Kuhns. “We need to maintain a system where fairness and justice are the top priorities.”
Under the legislation, law enforcement agencies will also be required to adopt a written policy regarding investigations into officer-involved deaths that reflect the independent investigation requirement.
The legislation does not prohibit law enforcement agencies from conducting internal investigations.