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Police reform likely a nonstarter

Just as he did with his gun reform plan last year, Gov. Mike DeWine isn’t going to get a warm welcome from the state Legislature to his proposed changes to law-enforcement policies.

It appears the latest proposals aren’t being embraced by his fellow Republicans, who have super majorities in the state House and the Senate — or even by Democrats in the Ohio Legislature.

DeWine is dealing with Republicans who seem to lack interest in making sweeping changes when it comes to gun or police reforms. He also has to deal with vocal gun-rights advocates and police organizations, that have largely backed him through his lengthy political career.

As DeWine has found during the COVID-19 pandemic, his views and those of Republicans who control the Legislature differ.

Along with Attorney General Dave Yost, also a Republican, DeWine last week proposed several significant changes to law enforcement policies. Many of them require approval from the General Assembly.

The May 25 death of George Floyd, an African-American, when Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes has led to numerous protests and rallies throughout the state and the nation. Though they’ve been largely peaceful, some protesters and some officers have become violent.

In response, DeWine proposed a ban on chokeholds unless it’s a life-threatening situation, and deadly force is needed.

He also wants the Legislature to provide money for local police agencies to purchase body cameras, mandate independent investigations and prosecutions for all officer-involved shootings and all in-custody deaths, create a law-enforcement oversight and accountability board to license police and develop a code of conduct, and provide funding for training on de-escalation, use of force and implicit bias.

There was near silence from Republican legislators on DeWine’s proposals and pushback from some Democrats.

House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said, “These are not the recommendations of black lawmakers — far from it.”

Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, said DeWine’s efforts were a small attempt to fix the larger problem of racism.

The House is on recess and not expected to return for a couple of months.

Also, law enforcement has expressed concern about the cost of buying body cameras and maintaining the footage.

The lack of embrace from his fellow Republicans reminded me of DeWine’s failed efforts to make gun reforms in October 2019, two months after a mass shooting in Dayton.

DeWine chose at the time not to propose a red flag law or mandatory gun checks for gun sales.

Instead, his Strong Ohio plan included a voluntary background check for gun sales between private sellers, increased penalties for those found with a gun while legally prohibited from having one, increased penalties for selling guns to minors, and providing judges with the ability to give stronger sentences to those convicted of felonies in which a gun was possessed or used.

He softened his stance in an effort to improve chances of getting it passed.

Not a single proposal has even been put up for a vote in the Legislature even though it’s been almost nine months since DeWine unveiled his plan.

Sure, the COVID-19 pandemic put that on hold when it started in March. But Republicans had five months before that to consider DeWine’s proposals, and nothing happened. There’s no reason to believe that even without the pandemic that anything different would have occurred.

While some Democrats backed DeWine’s proposals, several of them also were not on board for a different reason.

They said the plan was, in the words of Sykes, “weak” and “watered-down proposals to appease the gun lobby.”

DeWine has been a politician for decades, but during his time as governor he has struggled to find common ground with Republicans who run the Legislature.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The

Vindicator.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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