ANSONIA — A Darke County police agency underwent an evaluation Wednesday with the goal of being certified for new police-community standards established by a state law enforcement board.
As part of the certification process for the Ansonia Police Department, Police Chief Frank Shapiro met with Fairfield, Ohio, Police Chief Mike Dickey, a representative of the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board.
The board is a result of the state’s efforts to improve relations between police and the communities they serve.
In January 2014, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich created the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations (Task Force) after a series of incidents in Ohio and around the nation highlighted the challenging situations that exist in too many places between some communities and police. The task force included 24 members representing the governor, legislature, attorney general, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, local law enforcement, organized labor, local community leaders, the faith-based community, business, municipalities and prosecuting attorneys.
In April 2015, the Task Force delivered its final report to the Gov. Kasich, who in turn established the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board (Ohio Collaborative) to oversee implementation of recommendations from the Task Force.
The Ohio Collaborative, a 12-person panel, established state standards — for the first time in Ohio’s history — on August 28, 2015, for use of force including use of deadly force and agency employee recruitment and hiring that can help guide law enforcement agencies in Ohio.
These new standards are expected to hold everyone accountable and instill a greater confidence with the public. The Ohio Collaborative urges all law enforcement agencies to meet or exceed these new standards as they develop policies and procedures to meet these new expectations.
The first standard regards an agency’s use of force. The Ohio Collaborative’s standard states: “Employees may only use the force which is reasonably necessary to effect lawful objectives including: effecting a lawful arrest or overcoming resistance to a lawful arrest, preventing the escape of an offender, or protecting or defending others or themselves from physical harm.”
For deadly force, the standard says: “The preservation of human life is of the highest value in the State of Ohio. Therefore, employees must have an objectively reasonable belief deadly force is necessary to protect life before the use of deadly force. Deadly force may be used only under the following circumstances: 1. To defend themselves from serious physical injury or death; or 2. To defend another person from serious physical injury or death; or 3. In accordance with U.S. and Ohio Supreme Court decisions, specifically, Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor.”
As for the recruiting and hiring standard, the Collaborative’s standard states: “The goal of every Ohio law enforcement agency is to recruit and hire qualified individuals while providing equal employment opportunity. Ohio law enforcement agencies should consist of a diverse workforce. Communities with diverse populations should strive to have a diverse work force that reflects the citizens served.”
“Non-discrimination and equal employment opportunity is the policy. Law enforcement agencies shall provide equal terms and conditions of employment regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, national origin, veteran status, military status, or disability. This applies to all terms or conditions associated with the employment process, including hiring, promotions, terminations, discipline, performance evaluations, and interviews.”
“Agencies should utilize due diligence in ensuring that their prospective employees have the proper temperament, knowledge and attitude to handle this very difficult job. Agencies should have appropriate mechanisms in place in order to achieve this mission. Further, agencies should ensure their employment requirements are related to the skills that are necessary to be a successful employee.”
A report will be published by March 31, 2017, listing which agencies have adopted and fully implemented the new state minimum standards. The Ohio Collaborative calls the state standards “just the first milestone.”
The Ansonia PD will become the first law enforcement agency in Darke County, and one of the very first in the state, to receive certification from the Ohio Collaborative showing that it is in compliance with these standards. Ansonia PD has already received a provisional certification.
Shapiro said he welcomes the certification process although the Ansonia PD already has policies in place regarding the use of force and for hiring practices which adheres to the state’s new standards.
“My policy already had what they were looking for,” he said. “From 2009 to 2016, my policy already contained what was necessary to get approved.”
Though the certification is voluntary, Dickey said he hope it will be a permanent improvement within Ohio’s law enforcement community.
“Right now it’s a voluntary process, but I think it is certainly a great objective and maybe at some future point the state will mandate it,” he said. “I don’t think that’s harmful, I think that it’s very beneficial.”
Shapiro agreed, saying, “I think there needs to be minimum standards, and the standards are going to have to be pretty broad, to cover a lot of different areas. I think it’s very important.”
Dickey said he will report to the board within the week and that the department should receive its final certification in about a month.
For further information about the Ohio Collaborative, go online to www.ocjs.ohio.gov/ohiocollaborative.