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DeWine pitches statewide police oversight board to Cincinnati public safety committee

Posted at 4:37 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 19:58:23-05

CINCINNATI — City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday morning had a special guest: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine video-conferenced into the meeting to brief local lawmakers on his vision for police reform across the state.

DeWine said Cincinnati stands as a role model statewide for its collaborative agreement, which aimed at improving police and community relationships in the wake of the 2001 shooting of an unarmed black man by a Cincinnati police officer and the riots in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown that followed. But to continue moving forward, DeWine said police officers need to be treated like any other professional, meaning there must be proper oversight and discipline.

"To be a police officer is a profession, and we should treat it that way, just as we treat a dentist or a doctor or any other profession" DeWine said Tuesday. "One of the goals that we have, no matter where you live in the state of Ohio... (is) that there's some uniformity as far as law enforcement is concerned."

DeWine's police reform plan would institute a statewide police oversight board, which would guide police licensing and the discipline of officers.

"A board would establish standards of conduct; it would receive complaints regarding violations of that conduct; it would conduct investigations of those complaints," DeWine said.

That board would also have the power to suspend or terminate an officer.

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said he supports the idea, calling it a "natural progression."

"I think, just as though a nurse or a doctor or a pharmacist, you are conditioned and licensed by a board, it's the same way for a police officer," he said. "You hold your certification through the Ohio Police Officers Training Academy. For officers that are found or known to be involved in misconduct, I think that will be great by revoking that license so that they can't hop from department to department."

DeWine emphasized, though, that his plan is not meant to take disciplinary control away from local departments.

"What we want to do is to, in some respects, enhance that and give more power, more authority locally, while at the same time setting strong statewide standards," DeWine said.