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Lawmaker eyes next step in resolving Statehouse discrimination

Civil Rights Commission complaint takes on discriminatory Statehouse security policies
August 13, 2018
Democrat Newsroom

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) is optimistic that four agencies will sit down by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission’s (OCRC) Aug. 16 mediation deadline to address racial profiling and discrimination by State Highway Patrol and private guards at the security checkpoints for the Riffe Tower and the Statehouse.

"Now that the State Highway Patrol’s self-review is completed, the next step is to sit down with all parties for mediation,” said Sykes. “I'm keeping an open mind and remain hopeful that we can come together to ensure everyone is treated equally at their state capitol.”

Sykes said that if some parties aren’t willing to meet OCRC’s mediation deadline, she will rely on the outcome of the commission’s independent investigation to determine a final resolution.

“We can improve Ohio by putting this shameful chapter of racial profiling behind us,” Sykes added. “We should create clear, objective and fair policies with all state agencies and departments to ensure safety and equal accommodations while treating everyone with dignity and respect.”

Sykes and other black women state legislators expressed concerns when the State Highway Patrol was involved in a number of incidents in which black women lawmakers were questioned and given extra scrutiny while white male lawmakers went freely through security checkpoints.

“The State Highway Patrol and Public Safety Director John Born have never acknowledged even the possibility of bias, but I believe our words and stories will have greater value with an impartial third party like the Civil Rights Commission,” Sykes said.

The State Highway Patrol reviewed its own security procedures last week, issuing their own report, and admitting no wrongdoing.

"The bigger issue is, if the State Highway Patrol is profiling elected officials, how are they treating Ohio citizens and other minorities who are coming to the Statehouse? Coming together to have an honest conversation is critical in understanding these issues," Sykes said.

Sykes is calling on the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, and the Ohio House of Representatives to join in mediation and encourages the patrol and public services department to sit down as well.