Ohio adopts first-ever police standards on deadly force

Ohio’s first statewide police standards on deadly force puts an emphasis on the preservation of human life and restrict officers to defending themselves or others from death or serious injury.

The standards were adopted Friday after an advisory panel formed by Gov. John Kasich in the wake of the 2014 police-involved shootings of John Crawford III in Beavercreek’s Walmart and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland park.

The panel decided on guidelines that follow national policies and the U.S. Supreme Court rulings Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor. The guidelines are less stringent than many of Ohio’s nearly 1,000 police departments’ policies on the use of deadly force.

“What we’re really after is trying to raise the bar so those agencies that don’t have these policy statements or other elements are able to have a good guidepost of where they need to be,” said Ohio’s public safety director John Born, the co-chair of the panel that developed the standards.

The statewide policy will be communicated to all police agencies via regional meetings and teleconferences by the Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS). State and local jurisdictions must fully adopt and implement the standards by March 2017.

The policy statement regarding the use of deadly force begins: “The preservation of human life is of the highest value in the State of Ohio.”

Messages left seeking comment from Beavercreek police, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Crawford’s attorney were not immediately returned. Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl wanted to review the full text, but said: “We are in agreement with the standards.”

The board also adopted a non-deadly use of force standard and new standards for police recruiting and hiring. The stated goal is to have a qualified and diverse police force while providing equal employment opportunity.

The Associated Press reported that Michael Navarre, police chief of Oregon in northwestern Ohio, pushed for references to court rulings regarding use of force, saying it’s important to highlight the ability of officers under certain circumstances to shoot at fleeing criminals who pose a risk to the community. The AP wrote that debate on the deadly force standard lasted more than an hour.

“We want to try and eliminate the Monday morning quarterbacking, which is what all this is about,” said Akron police officer Brian Armstead, according to the AP.

The 12-member Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board was created by Gov. Kasich in April to implement recommendations from his Task Force on Community-Police Relations.

The panel included Central State University senior Austin B. Harris, who said a month ago that he hoped to prevent situations like the shooting of Crawford. The 22-year-old Fairfield man was talking on his cell phone while walking around the store with a BB/pellet gun he picked up off a store shelf when Beavercreek police officer Sean C. Williams shot twice and killed him after claiming officers twice told Crawford to drop the object.

“I watched the video myself, and it just looks like a guy walking around Walmart on his phone,” Harris said in July. “Now, we can use the Ohio community-police collaborative board to kind of bring a change to these senseless killings.”

Board co-chair and former state Sen. Nina Turner of Cleveland said the police-involved shootings in Ohio and around the country have sparked conversation about what police methods are right or wrong.

“That is what the community struggles with,” Turner said as quoted by the AP. “Whether or not they understand what is legally allowed but in their mind they know what is morally right, and we have to bridge the gap between those two.”

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