By Damon Watkins Jr.
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio
The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio’s (ULGSO) Center for Social Justice just released the “Policing in Hamilton County Report.” The report centers around responses to a 57-question survey from 30 local police chiefs. Survey questions focused on key issues relevant to local communities, including police training, data collection and transparency, accountability, and community oversight. The report also includes research on national trends in law enforcement and a list of recommendations for local departments to increase transparency and accountability and strengthen police/community relations.
Rickell Howard Smith, executive director of the Center for Social Justice, stated, “This report explores topics that often arise when a use of force incident locally – use of force investigations, use of body cams, and community access to data detailing police/community interactions. Local police chiefs provided their responses to survey questions. We hope that this report can serve as a visible baseline to engage in real, lasting reforms across the county.”
Based on national research, information gathered in the Hamilton County Policing Survey and local communities, the Center for Social Justice offers the following reform recommendations to increase transparency, police accountability, and strengthen trust between local law enforcement agencies and residents.
USE OF FORCE
- Create a standard, statewide definition of “use of force” and require all police agencies to amend local policies to include language that ensures that uses of force are a “necessity and proportional” to any perceived threat.
- Require mandatory reporting of all use of force incidents to the Ohio Incident-Based Reporting System (OIBRS) – a statewide database that Ohio law enforcement agenices report their use of force incidents.
- Implement “Duty to Intervene” policies that require officers to report when they observe an excessive use of force and include consequences for officers that do not report these instances.
- Acquire body worn cameras for all departments that are automatically activated when officers draw their weapons or tasers.
- Train officers on duty to intervene policies.
- Train officers on effective de-escalation techniques for target populations, including youth, elders, and people living with disabilities.
- Evaluate the efficacy of implicit and anti-bias trainings to ensure that they positively impact community police relations.
- Train officers to identify and appropriately respond to residents experiencing mental health crises and people living with disabilities.
- Collaborate with local mental health response teams to ensure safe and appropriate responses to residents experiencing mental health crises.
DATA COLLECTION AND REPORTING
- Implement a state requirement for police agencies to collect, disaggregate, and publicly report data on traffic and pedestrian stops, uses of force, and officer discipline.
- Utilize a uniform, electronic data collection software county-wide.
- Join the Police Data Initiative (PDI) – a national and free service that works with police departments to ensure their data is accessible to the general public.
- Ensure officer investigations are expedited and transparent.
- Revise police union contracts to ensure that the disciplinary history of officers is accessible to the public and contract terms do not hinder misconduct investigations.
- Create resident-led, independent community oversight bodies that have authority to review police policy changes, investigate allegations of misconduct, and submit recommendations to improve police-community relations.
- Collaborate and share services across departments in order to secure critical law enforcement tools, such as body camera equipment, data management software, and use of force training.
The public can view the full report, executive summary, and fact sheets on key topics at https://www.ulgso.org/policing-in-hamilton-county