DeWine on protests: ‘This is truly our moment to do the hard work’

In this April 16, 2020, file photo wearing his protective mask made by his wife, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine walks into his daily coronavirus news conference at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Doral Chenoweth/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)
In this April 16, 2020, file photo wearing his protective mask made by his wife, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine walks into his daily coronavirus news conference at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Doral Chenoweth/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday called for more training and accountability for police officers, pledged to work on solutions to racism and inequalities, and side-stepped questions about President Trump’s remarks that governors should get tough with protesters.

When asked about the president’s remarks to governors this week, DeWine acknowledged that he was on the conference call but he believes Ohioans are satisfied with how the unrest is being handled by local and state officials.

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DeWine used his regular coronavirus news briefing to address the issues underpinning large demonstrations in cities across the state and nation: racism, inequalities and police accountability. The governor pledged to work with other state leaders to address inequalities in health, education and economic opportunities.

“We should all be outraged in the year 2020 that in Ohio and in this country there is still inequality of opportunity and there is still racism,” DeWine said while protesters assembled for the sixth consecutive day at the Ohio Statehouse.

READ MORE: Organizer says expect ‘plenty’ more protests in Dayton region

Demonstrations have been held to protest the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was handcuffed and put face down on the pavement while a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd later died.

DeWine said he’d work with lawmakers in the coming days to address issues of racism as well as inequality for people living in the margins.

“The most important thing is to let our actions speak louder than our words. Words are important. Words of the protesters are significant and need to be heard. But those of us in government who have the ability to change things directly, we have to take this opportunity,” he said. “This is truly our moment to do the hard work … to insure that all Ohioans have the same opportunities.”

PHOTOS: Hundreds gather for protest in Dayton Saturday afternoon

DeWine also said Ohio needs to shore up police training in implicit bias, de-escalation techniques and recognizing mental health challenges; recruit more people of color to serve as officers; make sure all law enforcement agencies adopt best practices on the use of force; and increase oversight, transparency and accountability of police agencies.

The vast majority of Ohio’s 33,000 sworn officers do a “phenomenal job,” DeWine said, but a small fraction have demonstrated “they should not be police officers.”

The governor said he would explore the idea of a central board to license police officers, similar to regulatory boards that license and discipline other professions such as doctors or nurses. Officers who are fired from one department often are hired by another, DeWine said.

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