Ohio Police Reforms Could Stall At The Statehouse

COLUMBUS — The upheaval the FBI’s federal bribery and racketeering investigation has created inside Ohio’s Statehouse could stall state police reforms following George Floyd’s death, News Center 7′s I-Team Reporter Jim Otte has learned.

Former Montgomery Co. Sheriff and state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, planned for the law enforcement reform bill he crafted with another state lawmaker with a background in law enforcement, Rep. Cindy Abrams, R- Harrison, to make progress after the legislature’s summer break.

Plummer has spent much of the summer holding meetings, hoping to generate support for formal legislative hearings when lawmakers return to the Statehouse.

However, the Ohio House is now focused on removing House Speaker Larry Householder, naming a new Speaker, and possibly repealing and replacing House Bill 6, the controversial energy company bailout at the center of the federal investigation.

Plummer is hopeful that when lawmakers return to the Statehouse he can still get some hearings on his bill, which he says is designed to increase transparency and accountability.

Among Plummer's goals included stopping the ability of officers who are facing disciplinary action from quitting and getting a job in another city's police department.

"It happens a lot. We need to target those people who continually get into trouble and if you eventually fire them they still have a police certificate and jump from department to department," Plummer said.

The national, state and local police reform movements have Ohio NAACP President Tom Roberts’ backing.

“The whole criminal justice system needs to be looked at,” said Roberts, a former Dayton state lawmaker. “An officer should not be allowed to resign if he’s in disciplinary mode. That information should follow him or her to the next job. That’s one of those situations that we need to put a pin in it and stop it.”

Law enforcement leaders, like Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf, joined the call for change, saying he also wants more openness about an officer's track record when they are applying for a new job.

"We have to make sure we have some type of vetting system that they're not just going somewhere else within the state of Ohio," Graf said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mike DeWine's administration continues to work behind the scenes on a plan of its own. Months ago, DeWine talked about creation of a state license to be held by officers that could be removed if they are guilty of abusive behavior.

Jason Pappas, Vice President of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police said he believes there is already a lot of accountability in the system. He adds, even if something manages to be passed late this year, it will take time to be implemented.

"It would be my expectation it would be at least a year to two years before it was fully implemented and operational," Pappas said.

Roberts is hoping that it will not take that long for meaningful reform.

"The General Assembly needs to see and feel the pain of their constituents and put these laws into effect now," Roberts said.

Householder is facing 20 years in prison, if convicted, and is now in the process of being removed from leadership.

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