DeWine wants uniform standards for police officers

The increased pre-certification standards Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine requested be adopted include:

  • Drug Screening: applicants pass a drug screening prior to admission into an academy.
  • Psychological Exam: each applicant undergoes a psychological exam to confirm that applicants have the right psychological makeup to serve as a peace officer.
  • Truth Verification Test: each applicant pass a truth verification test, such as a voice stress analysis (VSA) or polygraph.
  • Physical Fitness: candidates pass a pre-entrance physical fitness assessment.
  • Additional criminal disqualifiers in addition to the current felony disqualifications.

Eight months after calling for increased standards for police officer training, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Tuesday that 19 of 25 recommendations are either done or in the pipeline and he will continue to advocate for more improvements.

DeWine said he wants uniform standards for candidates seeking to be officers, whether they’re attending police academies or one of the 65 independent “open” academies. Students should be required to pass physical and psychological fitness tests, a drug screening, and a polygraph before enrolling in any police academy across the state, DeWine said. Major police departments that run their own academies have already adopted these pre-certification standards.

In April, a task force formed by DeWine made 25 recommendations that included setting higher standards and more stringent screening for those who want to become police officers, substantially boosting the minimum hours of basic training, and instituting a tenfold increase in annual ongoing training hours for Ohio’s 34,000 officers.

DeWine formed the task force after the police shootings of John Crawford III at the Beavercreek Walmart and 12-year-old Tamir Rice at a Cleveland park last year. Both shootings prompted protests and calls for changes with police departments.

A Greene County grand jury declined to indict the Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams, and the U.S. Department of Justice has an open investigation into the shooting. The Crawford family filed a lawsuit against the Beavercreek Police Department, Williams and Walmart.

In Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office is presenting evidence in the November 2014 shooting to grand jurors. They will decide if either Officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot Tamir, or his training officer, Frank Garmback, who was driving the patrol car that pulled up beside Tamir, should be criminally charged.

Basic training hours will increase to 653 hours in 2016, up from 605 hours this year, and Ohio’s 34,000 officers will be required to complete 11 hours of ongoing annual training in 2016 and 20 hours in 2017, up from the current four hours. The additional hours will focus on community police relations, recognizing personal bias, constitutional use of force and dealing with people having mental health episodes, DeWine said.

The state will use Local Government Fund money to reimburse local departments $20 per hour for officer ongoing training. DeWine had recommended 40 hours of annual ongoing training.

DeWine said that the added training in crucial areas reduce the odds that fatal police shootings, such as those that killed Crawford and Rice, will happen. “I think all of this cumulatively will make a difference,” he said.

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