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Ohio Lawmakers Push Bill To Expand Police Training, Funding Still Unclear

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Ohio ranks 37th in the nation in the amount of training required for police officers.

Ohio lawmakers are responding to a report on the status of police officer training by proposing changes to the laws on basic training and recruitment. But changes could be very pricey.

The state requires its new police officers to participate in 605 hours of basic training, which puts Ohio behind several surrounding states. The Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission would like to increase those hours, but an old law actually places a cap on the maximum amount of training an officer can receive at 650 hours.

That’s where the General Assembly comes in. Republican Representative Tim Derickson of Oxford is introducing a bill that would get rid of that cap.

“These brave men and women put their lives on the line to protect and serve our communities everyday often without praise or recognition we must ensure training allows them to be comfortable in the field and prepared for situations they’ve encountered in the course of their duty,” Derickson said.

Fellow Republican Representative Nathan Manning, of North Ridgeville, is a co-sponsor of the bill. He says the legislation will also require new police officer recruits to have at least a high school diploma or a GED. Ohio is just one of three states that don’t have this requirement.

This bill is in response to a report released by an advisory committee launched by Attorney General Mike DeWine in response to recent fatal police-involved shootings. John Crawford, a 22-year-old black man, was shot and killed last August in a Dayton-area Walmart while holding an air rifle. Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black youth, was shot and killed in November in a Cleveland park while holding a BB gun.

This latest piece of legislation only scratches the surface of what was recommended by the committee, especially since it doesn’t address continuing education.

So while the bill allows the training commission to increase basic training hours, DeWine says more needs to be done to take on annual education.

“There’s a strong consensus in the state of Ohio that we want to be a leader in police training and not lagging way, way behind.”

That’s where DeWine sees Ohio right now when it comes to continuing education. The state currently requires just four hours of continued training every year. According to DeWine that ranks Ohio 37th in the country.

“We really need to do better than that and we owe it to the citizens and we owe it to those police officers who are out there risking their lives every single day to have more hours of training,” said DeWine.

But even if there is a consensus for more hours of continuing training—there’s still a big obstacle in the way: money.

The Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission can—right now—ramp that number up to 24 hours of training a year. But state law says the training commission must pay for each additional hour at the rate of $20 an hour per officer. There are about 35,000 officers in Ohio so DeWine says at that rate, the training commission would have to pay about $700,000 for each new hour required.

“Could they change the whole formula certainly they could change the formula or you could use this current formula and make money available for that formula but one of those two things has to happen the status quo will not allow additional hours to be mandated something has to give here, money has to come from somewhere,” DeWine said.

DeWine would like to see the required amount of annual training go up to 40 hours. He says that’s a good goal that would be on par with other states that are the leaders in the area of police training.

The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police didn’t want to comment on the proposed changes before thoroughly reading through the bill.