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Ohio continues to add to number of certified police agencies

April 15, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state could have communicated better with Ohio police departments early on about a new certification process created in the wake of controversies over police shootings of unarmed black people, the official overseeing the certification process said.

Too many agencies believed the state was blaming departments for police controversies, said Karhlton Moore, executive director of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services.

“We just did not communicate enough and while we did bring our partners in, we probably could have done that sooner,” Moore told The Associated Press in an interview.

The result was misinformation and disinformation about the process, including some agencies’ mistaken belief they wouldn’t be eligible for state grants if they didn’t go through the process, Moore said.

Moore said he’s trying to prevent a repeat of the problem by providing timely information that agencies can rely on.

An advisory board commissioned by Republican Gov. John Kasich created the certification process after a series of fatal police shootings of unarmed blacks in Ohio and nationally, including the 2014 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

Agencies that don’t meet statewide standards as minimum policies are listed noncompliant on an annual list released each March.

This year’s list showed agencies accounting for more than eight of every 10 Ohio police officers are now becoming certified.

That includes 415 agencies fully certified on use of force and hiring standards, up from 270 last year, Moore said.

Agencies on both sides of the process agree the state’s initial approach was heavy-handed. In London in central Ohio, Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin said he was put off by all the written communication rather than the personal touch.

“When you receive written communication, there’s no two-way communication there,” Sabin said. “Basically it appears to be one-way.”

The agency hasn’t participated in the certification process so far but plans to apply, Sabin said.

In Defiance in northern Ohio, police chief Todd Shafer is a big fan of the process. He says meeting the recruiting and hiring standard helped improve his department’s woeful efforts in that area previously and do a better job reaching out to female and minority candidates.

He also said the state’s initial outreach was a bit tone deaf.

“When it first came out, it did give us the feeling that we were sort of being pressured because of what was going on nationwide as far as the feeling toward law enforcement,” Shafer said.

Police departments typically resist such changes regardless of how the process is communicated, said Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor and director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security, which conducts police training.

States also rarely take the approach Ohio has, he added.

“If they’re making progress on that, to me that sounds good,” Greenberger said.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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