Ohio Lawmakers Propose New Police Reform Legislation

By: Ryan Bockmuller

Recently, the Ohio Legislature has introduced a number of police reform bills which, if passed, could materially impact the provision of police services in the State of Ohio.

House Bill 706, introduced by Rep. Erica Crawly (D – Dist. 26) and Rep. Thomas West (D – Dist. 49), seeks to enact R.C. § 109.749 which would require peace officers to complete training on de-escalation techniques, implicit bias, procedural justice, and mental health issues, to require information regarding mental health resources and available support be provided to peace officers annually, and to make an appropriation.  While the Bill has been introduced in the House, it has not yet been put to a vote. The Bill would need to pass both the House and the Senate before being presented to the Governor for signature.  If passed, this Bill would have a limited impact on the day-to-day procedures of police because it only mandates additional training for officers.  When factoring in the current political climate surrounding the need for police reform, it is possible such a bill could resonate with voters in an election year and gain enough support to become law.

House Bill 710, introduced by Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D – Dist. 10) and Rep. Sedrick Denson (D – Dist. 33), would amend numerous sections of R.C. § 109, R.C. § 2933, and R.C. § 5503 to prohibit police officers from “engaging in biased policing and other status-based profiling and to require the attorney general’s office to establish rules regarding such police practices.” This Bill has been introduced in the House and has not yet been put to a vote; however, the Bill is unlikely to pass Ohio’s Republican controlled legislature, as written.  The Bill is likely too intrusive into the operations of many police forces to be practical and enforcement would be a challenge, due to the subjective nature of bias.  Even if passed, it is likely that Governor DeWine, a former prosecutor and attorney general, would veto this Bill due to the challenges presented with enforcement and the stark changes to police procedure that would be required.

House Bill 713, introduced by Thomas West (D – Dist. 49) and Rep. David Leland (D – Dist. 22), would seek to enact R.C. § 109.70 which would prohibit the use of arrest and citation quotas for law enforcement agencies.  The Bill has been introduced in the House and has not yet been put to a vote.  Again, this bill is unlikely to pass Ohio’s Republican controlled legislature as written.  As with HB 710, it is likely too disruptive to the operations of many police forces to be practical, a factor which would likely prevent Governor DeWine, a former prosecutor who understand the needs of law enforcement, from signing the bill into law, even if passed.

House Bill 421, introduced by Rep. Todd Smith (R – Dist. 43) and Rep. Gil Blair (D – Dist. 63), would extend civil and criminal immunity, under R.C. § 2744.01, et seq., to political subdivisions for the acts of hospital police officers acting directly in the discharge of the person’s duties as a police officer and that occurs on the premises of the hospital, or elsewhere, when directly related to the role of being a hospital police officer.  This bill has also narrowed the definition of “emergency call,” as stated in R.C. § 2744.01, to mean “communication from a citizen, police dispatch, or a personal observation by a peace officer only if that communication, dispatch, or personal peace officer observation involves or concerns an inherently dangerous situation that demands an immediate response on the part of a peace officer.” H.B. 421 at p. 2.

The current definition of “emergency call” is “a call to duty, including but not limited to, communications from citizens, police dispatches, and personal observations by peace officers of inherently dangerous situations that demand an immediate response on the part of a peace officer.” R.C. 2744.01(A).  The Bill has passed the Ohio House unanimously with bipartisan support, 94-0, and is now in committee in the Ohio Senate.  Due to unanimous support in the House, this legislation is very likely to pass through the Senate and be signed into law by Governor DeWine.  Even if the Governor did attempt to veto the Bill, the Governor’s veto may be overturned with a three-fifths majority in both houses.

For more information on any of this legislation or how it may impact police departments, please contact Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder, Co. L.P.A. at (440) 248-7906.