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Mike DeWine calls for police reform as state investigates shooting death of Jayland Walker

Gov. Mike DeWine announces program to equip local law enforcement with body cameras.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) announces program to provide body cameras to every state highway patrol trooper in November 2021. DeWine has said his office can make certain decisions for law enforcement accountability but needs legislative approval for other policies.

While the state is taking over the investigation into the shooting death of Jayland Walker — a Black man killed by Akron police last week — questions around accountability for Ohio law enforcement are resurfacing.

Republican leaders in statewide and state legislative offices have floated out several changes to Ohio law in hopes of police reform, but those proposals have not been officially introduced as bills in the current legislature and bills proposed by Democratic lawmakers have seen little movement.

In June 2020, soon after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican,issued a list of proposals for the legislature to take up. Those measures included mandatory psychological testing and a high school diploma for police recruits, more implicit bias training, independent investigations for all police shootings and in-custody deaths, and a police licensure review process.

The measures that need legislative action have not been passed. This week, DeWine said leaders should be able to find common ground on those proposals.

“All these things, I think, are not controversial. And again, I would call on the legislature to get this passed. It's time. It's time to move forward,” DeWine said.

These types of proposals have been mentioned for years in response to other high-profile Ohio police shootings of Black men and children, such as John Crawford who was killed by police while shopping in a Beavercreek Walmart in August 2014 and Tamir Rice who was 12-years-old when he was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer in a park in November 2014.

The effort appeared to gain new momentum in the summer of 2020 when Republican legislators rolled out a 15-point plan to change Ohio’s police system. Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) proposed more training, stronger disciplinary measures and possible pay increases for police officers. But those measures have not been introduced in the current Ohio General Assembly.

DeWine said Wednesday that he is encouraged that the state has taken over the investigation.

“This is the process that we envisioned. That there would be a separate entity, a separate agency that would be doing the investigation. I think that helps people feel better about it. And the appearance of an impartial examination of this is very important,” said DeWine.

Movement on new legislation to address the issue of law enforcement accountability is not likely to move any time soon. A bill has yet to be introduced and the Ohio Legislature is on summer break. Leaders in the House and Senate do not plan to reconvene until after the November general election.

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