SIDNEY — More than 500 agencies employing 82 percent of Ohio’s law enforcement officers are in the process of implementing Ohio’s first-ever statewide standards on use of force, including deadly force, and hiring and recruitment, according to a report issued Friday by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) in Columbus.
Those first three standards were established in 2017. Three standards have since been added, having to do with community engagement, body-worn cameras and telecommunication training, according to Karhlton Moore, OCJS executive director.
“The way (policing) agencies become certified is to adopt and implement those standards,” he told the Sidney Daily News, Friday. “We have a pretty robust certification process. We require proofs of compliance.”
According to a release, Friday, by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, the standards were developed by a diverse group of Ohioans from law enforcement and community leaders as part of Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich’s efforts to improve community and police relations.
The board was charged with creating the statewide standards for law enforcement agencies. The state partnered with the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police to help certify Ohio’s law enforcement agencies.
The Sidney Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the village of Russia Police Department are certified. The police departments of the villages of Anna, Botkins, Fort Loramie, Jackson Center and Port Jefferson are not.
“We’re in the process of certification, but we’re not there yet. We’re hoping to have it done by the end of the year,” said Botkins Police Chief Tom Glass.
The chiefs of the other noncertified departments and Sidney Police Chief William Balling could not be reached for comment, Friday.
Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart said most of the standards are common sense.
“Those use-of-force things were issued for large metropolitan forces,” he said. “The state issued a one-size-fits-all standard. The policy is OK. There’s no question about the policy.”
The standard for use of force reads as follows: “Employees may only use the force which is reasonably necessary to effect lawful objectives including effecting a lawful arrest or overcoming resistance to a lawful arrest, preventing the escape of an offender or protecting or defending others or themselves from physical harm.”
The standard for use of deadly force reads, “The preservation of human life is of the highest value in the state of Ohio. Therefore, employees must have an objectively reasonable belief deadly force is necessary to protect life before the use of deadly force. Deadly force may be used only under the following circumstances: 1. To defend themselves from serious physical injury or death; or 2. To defend another person from serious physical injury or death; or 3. In accordance with U.S. and Ohio Supreme Court decisions…”
The standard for recruitment and hiring is as follows: “The goal of every Ohio law enforcement agency is to recruit and hire qualified individuals while providing equal employment opportunity. Ohio law enforcement agencies should consist of a diverse workforce. Communities with diverse populations should strive to have a diverse work force that reflects the citizens served.”
The standard for community engagement reads, “Agencies must adopt a community engagement strategy with a primary focus on improving police-community relations.”
The standard for body-worn cameras is as follows: “Law enforcement agencies that use body worn cameras must establish a written policy for their use. The policy shall address the following areas: 1. the purpose and organizational philosophy regarding use; 2. requirements and restrictions for activation and deactivation of the device; 3. criminal and administrative use of the camera-captured data; 4. data storage, retention and disclosure requirements reflective of public records law and privacy concerns; 5. accountability and training requirements for users and supervisors; and 6. requirements for a documented review of camera-captured data.”
The standard for telecommunication applies only to departments with a telecommunications center. The standard reads, “Law enforcement agencies must ensure a training program and policy directives exist to allow for telecommunicators to be proficient in obtaining complete and accurate information from callers requesting law enforcement assistance; accurately classifying and prioritizing requests for assistance; obtaining and accurately relaying information which may affect responder and/or citizen safety.”
Lenhart noted that not being certified doesn’t make a village department a bad policing agency.
“It’s just a recommendation that the state put down. (Departments) can still follow the policy. It just means they don’t jump through hoops like the state wanted. It takes time and personnel to do it. Most policing agencies have been taught when to shoot and when not to shoot. What (the board) tried to do was bring the smallest agencies up to what the largest ones would be.”
Moore said that the board will work with anyone to get through the certification process and that certified departments are all sizes, from the smallest, a two-person force, to the largest in the state.
“We offer peer support (of the process),” he said. Moore added that about 60 percent of the law enforcement agencies in Ohio are certified. There is at least one in each of the state’s 88 counties. Those agencies protect 82 percent of Ohio’s population.
To see the full, 212-page report, visit http://www.publicsafety.ohio.gov/links/2018_collaborative-public-report.pdf.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.