COLUMBUS, Ohio — During a press conference slated to cover COVID-19 in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine changed gears, shifting to promises for impending legislature aimed at chipping away at inequality and racism throughout Ohio.
He promised viewers he planned to speak with the Ohio General Assembly about legislation next week, and plans to detail specifics on this legislation for viewers of his press conference on Thursday afternoon.
"We should be outraged that, in the year 2020, in Ohio and in this country, there is still inequality of opportunity and there is still racism," said DeWine. "The coronavirus, this global pandemic, has laid bare our vulnerabilities, our fears, our outrage, our uncertainties, our disparities and our injustices. We must come together to try to solve these historic injustices."
He addressed issues within law enforcement as well, noting that the protesters marching through the streets as a result of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have reason to want change within Ohio and within the police force.
He promised viewers the legislation he intends to work towards will ensure police departments throughout the state receive proper training on implicit bias, de-escalation techniques and recognizing when their fellow officers may be struggling with a mental health challenge. He stressed the need for more people of color in the police force and to create pathways for more accountability and oversight in all departments.
"We also have proposals about how we more accurately target those individuals who have demonstrated that they should not be police officers," said DeWine. "A specific problem that I hope to be able to address is the problem of, we have seen, a rogue person who is a police officer who demonstrates in one department that they should not be a police officer, they’re fired, they leave and then they show up and we see them again in another police department. That is a problem that we have to address."
During Tuesday's conference, he listed several initiatives his office has already been planning to work on, like lead paint in homes throughout the state that poisons children, specifically in low-income housing, infant and maternal mortality rates that disproportionately affect the black communities in Ohio and mental health prioritization.
"Despite many great efforts over the years by many people, we still have too many Ohioans who are living in the shadows of opportunity, too many Ohioans are still living at the margins," said DeWine. "Still, there is racism in Ohio and across our country. There’s inequity in Ohio and across this great land. And still there are both economic and health disparities in Ohio and in this country."
He emphasized that, in Ohio, infant and maternal mortality rates, like the COVID-19 pandemic, affect black families at a much higher rate as that of white families.
"I seek dialogue with every Ohioan to solve these problems," said DeWine. "I'm looking for real answers to the real problems for the structural impediments to equality in the state of Ohio."
He acknowledged that protesters, who have been marching in every major city in the state of Ohio for several days, are demonstrating for a cause that is not only understandable, but appropriate. He encouraged the peaceful protests, noting that, while there have been a few among them who have resorted to violence and looting, the vast majority of protesters are exercising their First Amendment rights appropriately.
Referencing his time as Attorney General of Ohio, DeWine noted that Ohio has made a start at securing anti-discrimination legislation over the years that has laid the foundation for work he said needs to continue. In the coming days, he said, he plans to connect with the Ohio General Assembly to work on continuing to put together legislation to continue working in that direction.
"This is a moment," he said. "It is really a moment in history and it is our time to act."