Members of a state panel believe there are only two justifications for police officers to use deadly force: to defend themselves or to defend others from serious injury or death.
An officer must fire his gun only to take down a suspect when he or she has “reasonable belief deadly force is necessary to protect life,” reads a draft of the first-ever proposed statewide standard on police use of deadly force.
Ohio is closer to setting the new standards for police agencies on use of force after a meeting on Tuesday of an advisory panel appointed by Gov. John Kasich.
Drafts of standards, including the recruitment and hiring of officers, were discussed at a meeting of the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, which was formed to improve policing and build public trust.
More than 100 Ohio police agencies, and likely many more, already have standards that meet or exceed those to be enacted by the state, but smaller- and medium-size agencies may not, officials say. Many of the controversial shootings in recent months across the country have come from smaller agencies.
“We’re raising the bar in Ohio,” said Department of Public Safety Director John Born, a co-chairman of the advisory group.
Ohio Fraternal Order of Police President Jay McDonald said he has no quibbles with the use-of-force proposals.
“Every officer is to be judged on the reasonableness of his actions, without the hindsight of 20-20 vision,” he said. “Those are the standards that have been in place and should be in place. We have no problem with that standard and being held to that standard.”
Kasich appointed the panel, and a successor group, to recommend ways to mend broken police-community relationships in the wake of the fatal shootings of blacks by white officers in Ohio and elsewhere across the country.
The draft of the standard on use of non-deadly force states: “The response must be based on the actions and behavior of the person and be reasonable for the situation” and balanced against the likelihood of injuries to all parties.
The standards on use of force and officer recruitment and hiring, which center on employing racially diverse police forces, are due by Sept. 3. They would take effect on Jan. 1, with agencies given until March 2017 to comply. The new criteria would be put in place by the Office of Criminal Justice Services, a branch of the Public Safety Department.
Community oversight will be vital to ensuring that agencies act within the boundaries of the standards and that authorities react responsibly when confronted with an officer who misuses force, Born said.
The advisory panel will turn its attention to other proposed statewide policing standards beginning next month.
Nina Turner, a former state senator, mother of a police officer and co-chairwoman of the advisory panel, wants to ensure that officer body cameras are in the mix.
A University of Cincinnati police officer was indicted on murder charges in Hamilton County after prosecutors said his body-cam video showed he was not in danger when he fatally shot an unarmed black motorist he stopped off-campus for a missing front license plate.
“Body cams are unbiased witnesses for both the citizen and the officer,” Turner said. “We definitely need that camera to bring back a sense of accountability … that citizens want.”
Kasich told CNN last weekend that he was open to the passage of legislation to mandate that police officers wear body cameras.
The state also has moved to improve police training after a panel formed by Attorney General Mike DeWine found Ohio lagging many states in required ongoing training.
The new state budget allocated $5 million to expand continuing training for officers from four hours annually to 11 hours in the coming year, followed by $10 million in 2016-17 to help pay for 20 hours of training.