DeWine Wants Standards On Law Enforcement Response To Protests

Cincinnati Police Department officers in full riot gear stand across the sidewalk and barricade from protestors as demonstrators continue to rally and protest the murder of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Police Department officers in full riot gear stand across the sidewalk and barricade from protesters as demonstrators continue to rally and protest the murder of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Cincinnati. [Jason Whitman / WVXU]

As demonstrations continue in honor of George Floyd and many cities in Ohio and elsewhere have come under fire for the police response to them, Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced he is asking Ohio's Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board to develop minimum standards on law enforcement response to mass protests.

"Let me be clear: when protests morph from peaceful to violent, law enforcement must be empowered to act," DeWine said. "We are not looking to give a small number of violent protestors a free pass – far from it. What we do want, though, is for peaceful demonstrators to feel safe when asserting their First Amendment rights, and for the public to be protected against violence and destruction of their property."

The governor’s request calls on the advisory board to determine:

  • when measures like tear gas, pepper spray, non-lethal projectiles become necessary;
  • what tactics and techniques are best practices for dealing with a crowd that is failing to disperse;
  • how law enforcement can prevent members of the media from being injured; and
  • when tactics become excessive for a given situation.

DeWine, who began the announcement by acknowledging Floyd's funeral in Houston was taking place at the same time, said it would be "helpful" to have these uniform standards throughout the state of Ohio.

Former Gov. John Kasich established the 12-member Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board in 2014 "after a series of incidents in Ohio and around the nation highlighted the challenges between the community and police," according to the panel’s website.

Since its creation, the group has developed standards on use of force, hiring and recruitment, community engagement, body cameras, bias-free policing, and employee misconduct. Last year, DeWine also directed the collaborative to set minimum standards on law enforcement pursuits by automobile.

Currently 79 percent of Ohio's law enforcement officers work for an agency that has voluntarily complied with the existing standards or is currently in the process of complying, DeWine said. That includes departments throughout Hamilton County, including Cincinnati, as well as departments in Columbus and Dayton.

"However, the number of these certified agencies only make up a little more than half of all of Ohio's departments," DeWine said. "There are over 800 departments; more than 400 of those agencies in the state have not chosen to pursue certification showing that they meet those minimum standards."

DeWine said there are many reasons why those departments have chosen not to comply, including having their own set of standards that are "just as good, if not higher."

Still, he encouraged those more than 400 departments to begin working on the process of change.

"I've directed the department of public safety office of criminal justice services, which oversees the certification process, to reach out directly to every single police agency in the state that is not meeting these standards and assist them in any way that they can."

The collaborative has a list of departments currently in and out of compliance.

Coronavirus Update

Dr. Susan Kolertar, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Ohio State University, joined the Tuesday briefing via Skype to talk about the difference of a person being "asymptomatic" and "pre-symptomatic," two words currently in the news after a recent report by the World Health Organization seemed to suggest that someone who has coronavirus but does not exhibit symptoms cannot transmit the virus.

Officials have since clarified that asymptomatic people can spread the virus, but it is still unknown how common that is. 

"I'm not sure we know how many people who are truly asymptomatic actually go on to transmit infections because we have not done that type of contract tracing," Kolertar said. "What is important is that - and I think we do know - that people who have symptoms or are pre-symptomatic [those just starting to show signs of the virus] are infectious. We've seen this with influenza, too, so it's not actually that surprising." 

 

Both Kolertar and DeWine re-emphasized the importance of handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

"[Masking] in particular is related to that pre-symptomatic potential for spread, both from the source - the person wearing the mask - to other people in the public," Kolertar said. "So when everyone is wearing masks, that decreases the likelihood of transmission from one person to another."

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