Sweeping police reforms pitched in new Ohio legislation

Ohio needs standardized police disciplinary procedures, independent investigations of police-involved shootings and a statewide database of officers disciplined or dismissed for egregious misconduct, according to a new bill sponsored by state Rep. Phil Plummer.

Plummer introduced legislation Thursday that calls for:

• Reviewing police officer compensation and improving training, including mental health and crisis intervention training.

• Assigning the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to investigate officer-involved shootings.

READ MORE: Local lawmaker’s ‘colored’ comment prompts call for bias training

• Creating a police officer certification oversight board, similar to regulatory boards that oversee other professions such as nurses or doctors.

• Standardizing hiring practices to include a mandatory psychological screening for new recruits and exploring elimination of civil service exams.

• Terminating police officers convicted of a felony or first- or second-degree misdemeanors involving violence.

“As we all know, changes need to be made,” Plummer said. “The status quo is not good enough. This is an important conversation we all need to have.”

The focus is to get rid of bad officers and support the good officers, he said.

DETAILS: Urbana lawmaker says he’s ‘darker’ than members of black caucus

Plummer started his career as a corrections officer in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in 1988. After advancing in the ranks, Plummer was appointed county sheriff in 2008, a post he held until 2018.

At least 15 lawsuits alleging the mistreatment of jail inmates have been filed against Montgomery County in recent years. Legal fees and settlements have cost the county more than $11 million.

“I do see an issue with that,” said Leronda Jackson, D-Englewood, who is running against Plummer this fall for the Ohio House seat. “Past performance predicts future behaviors.”

Jackson noted that the police reform bill is a result of another unarmed African American killed by police so she wants to know who are the black people Plummer consulted in crafting the legislation.

The Ohio House Minority caucus said its members, which includes all of the African American lawmakers in the 99-member House, were not consulted about the bill.

Plummer said he consulted former sheriffs, police chiefs and others, and he’ll look for input from other sources as the legislation develops.

Despite the multiple lawsuits during his tenure as sheriff, Plummer said he is the right person to push for police reforms because of that experience.

“Very few officers cause the most of your problems. You hold them accountable — that’s why I want to change the arbitration system so we get rid of bad officers,” Plummer said.

Better training and oversight could head off costly lawsuits, he argued.

“We can fix this. That was a frustrating part of my career — was getting the bad apples,” Plummer said.

In recent days, multiple police reform plans have emerged from Gov. Mike DeWine, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, the Dayton Unit NAACP, Ohio House Democrats and others.

Ohio has 868 law enforcement agencies that employ 32,000 sworn officers.

RELATED: DeWine: Defunding police ‘absurd’ but reforms are needed

DeWine has called on Ohio law enforcement agencies to follow best practices developed five years ago on use of force, hiring and other subjects, and wants experts to develop clear guidelines on when police should use non-lethal force against demonstrators, such as tear gas, pepper spray and projectiles.

Plummer said Ohio should mandate that law enforcement agencies follow those best practices established five years ago.

About the Author