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Many police reform bills haven’t had a hearing at Ohio Statehouse 1 year after George Floyd’s murder

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 7:40 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Implicit bias training, banning chokeholds, and an independent police oversight board are just some of the police reforms proposed by Ohio lawmakers in the year since George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a police officer.

But 19 Investigates found some of these bills have stalled at the Ohio Statehouse.

We spoke with State Representative Thomas West (D- Canton) as the fight against racism continues.

He reflected on the murder of George Floyd, one year later.

“Even though it was a tragedy, it sparked a movement that I think is going to be long lasting,” West said.

19 Investigates spoke with West last summer as he unveiled several police reform bills just weeks after Floyd’s death.

Protests had erupted across the country and here in northeast Ohio.

He is still waiting for movement at the statehouse, but he hasn’t lost hope.

“As we’ve talked before, we’ve implemented some bills and started moving forward on some bills that our communities were calling for. So I gotta tell you, we have a lot more work to do at the state,” West said.

West has seen a recent win for one of his bills.

House Bill 8, which requires the recording of police interrogations for most major felonies, was just signed into law.

It’s a bipartisan bill West worked on with State Rep. Phil Plummer (R- Dayton).

“It’s videotaped and audiotaped so that people are coerced into confessing to a crime they didn’t commit,” West said.

His next priority is more training for police. West said it can’t wait.

“Not just with implicit bias training, mental health training, de-escalation tactics, those types of training. But also the funding that’s going to require that. Police officers do an incredible job out there in some respects, okay. But they also need the tools to be able to do the job effectively,” he said.

House Bill 134 from West hasn’t seen a hearing.

Neither has House Bill 307, which would prohibit the use of arrest and citation quotas by police.

“You don’t want police officers to keep pulling people over. And that’s when we see these incidents occur,” West said.

But one bipartisan bill has passed the Ohio House.

House Bill 23 requires training for police on interacting with Ohioans who have dementia.

“That’s what it all comes down to, accountability and transparency in the process. That’s all people want. They’re not asking for you to let someone off Scott free, that’s not the case,” West said.

Across the aisle, Gov. Mike DeWine renewed his call for police reform about a month ago.

He wants to see an independent police oversight board, use of force database, psychological evaluations for new officers, and chokeholds banned, among other proposals.

We hadn’t heard anything about where these bills stand, so we reached out to DeWine’s office.

His press secretary told us, “The sponsors are preparing the bill for introduction at this time.”

West has had some conversations with the governor’s office and hopes they can collaborate, Republicans and Democrats, to pass reform measures together.

“The issue of race—it’s a topic that needs to happen and we can’t keep brushing it under the carpet and think that we’re going to get different outcomes,” he said.

West said now is the time to push reforms through and it can’t wait.

“This topic has not gone away, it’s not died down. And it’s still hot and it’s time for us to do something,” he said.

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