Ohio Gov. John Kasich spoke out this week about the need to improve relations between police and local communities in a state that has seen two high-profile examples of the nation’s recent spate of fatal police-involved shootings. The Republican, who is reportedly exploring a 2016 White House run, signed an executive order Thursday to create an advisory board that will set standards for the use of deadly force by Ohio’s police officers.
After the Ohio shooting deaths of Tamir Rice and John Crawford III last year, Kasich impaneled a task force to recommend a series of policing reforms. The group's suggestions included greater oversight of police agencies, the hiring of more minority officers and additional funding for officer training. The executive order provides resources for the advisory board’s work, which Kasich said was critical in reducing tensions between police and minority communities.
“We don’t want to have people in the streets, burning buildings, hating one another,” Kasich said Wednesday in a clear reference to this week's unrest in Baltimore. “We have to do this. It has to work and it will work because we are all going to be in there together.”
In addition to the use-of-force standards, Kasich’s advisory board is also charged with helping Ohio communities better understand the role of law enforcement, the Columbus Post-Dispatch reported. The potential GOP presidential hopeful’s focus on policing came one day after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laid out a proposal for criminal justice reforms. Clinton’s speech in New York City included a call for an end to policies that lead to mass incarceration of blacks. While Kasich’s plans are more narrowly focused on community policing in Ohio, he said he recognized the potential national impact on minorities.
“The governor of this state is not going to look the other way,” Kasich said. “It is not acceptable to have these divisions between our friends in the African-American community and law enforcement.”
Last weekend, investigators from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office and the state of Ohio continued to investigate the shooting death of Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy who was fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer last November. Rice had been playing with an Airsoft toy pistol that resembled a real handgun, near a local recreation center. Investigators visiting the site Sunday appeared to re-create the shooting, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, but the investigators would not discuss what they were trying to determine. The status of the officers involved in the shooting was still in limbo Thursday.
Crawford, a 20-year-old man, was fatally shot last August by a police officer at a Walmart store in Beavercreek, Ohio, near Dayton. A grand jury decided last September not to charge the officer. Crawford had been carrying an unpackaged BB air rifle that was for sale in the store.