State Task Force on Police-Community Relations Holds First Meeting in Cleveland

Former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes and former State Sen. Nina Turner serve on the police-community relations task force.
Former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes and former State Sen. Nina Turner serve on the police-community relations task force.
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Out of an audience of dozens, about 20 people testified.

Some shared stories about treatment by police. Others recommended collecting data on racial profiling in Ohio, training officers to respond to people with mental illness, and setting up an independent panel to review police shootings. Many speakers urged the task force to consider race in its final proposals.

The group also heard from U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, who outlined the Justice Department’s findings that Cleveland police too often used excessive force.

Akron Police Sgt. Brian Armstead, a task force member, asked the audience to support putting enough money toward making these proposals happen.

"One of the common denominators that I heard from the recommendations seemed to be training, knowledge," Armstead said. "Let’s make our police officers better equipped. I’m sure the community is going to hold our feed to the fire on that. All of those things are going to require funding."

Former Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner of Cleveland is a task force co-chair. Turner says in April, the group will make proposals to Gov. John Kasich on how to bridge gaps between officers and the residents they serve.

"Because that's a lot of what came out of this, this whole notion of respect for one another," she said. "Respect for the community, respect for police. But there are things that we need to have funding. I think it's a very real concern about police, their training, their equipment, them having the tools that they need to be good officers. And also for the community, those resources that are needed to build this community."

State Rep. Alicia Reece is a task force member and heads the legislative black caucus. The Cincinnati Democrat says action could take several paths.

"Could be a bill and executive orders," Reece said. "Could be something the attorney general could get done right now. Could be something the governor could implement right now. Could be something the General Assembly could see passing."

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