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Ohio AG calls to license police officers, more training money

Republican Attorney General Dave Yost has said the licensing of police officers could help keep out the few bad cops


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost at a press conference.

Photo/Jeremy Pelzer,

By Marc Kovac
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Republican Attorney General Dave Yost reiterated his support Monday for the licensing of police officers to ensure that the few bent on wrongdoing or otherwise not competent for law enforcement duties can be removed from the job.

“There has to be some way, other than committing and being convicted of a felony, for people who shouldn’t be on the job to not be on the job,” Yost said in opening comments during his annual Law Enforcement Conference.

“I want full due process, there needs to be an appeal right, we need to make sure that nobody is subject to an unrighteous license action. But we have got to get to a point, for the sake of your safety and for the acceptance of the community, where those few bad people, the ones that are in those ... cell phone videos we see, those are the folks that we to not have on the job anymore.”

The annual conference, held online because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, included educational sessions — an afternoon focused on “building mutual respect and community trust” between officers and the public — along with the presentation of annual law enforcement awards and the honoring of three officers and a police canine killed in the line of duty in 2019. More than 500 people registered to participate.

The conference comes during a year that’s included an uptick in violent crimes in central Ohio and elsewhere and demonstrations and civil unrest nationally following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers. The officers involved that and other violent incidents recorded by bystanders and posted online have sparked widespread criticism and attacks against all those involved in law enforcement.

“I have never seen a time that’s been as awful as this in the last 20 years,” Yost said. “The invective, the hatred, that is pouring our for the people that actually put their lives on the line every day, it’s just astounding to me.”

He added, “To take those isolated incidents, those few incidents, and compare them to the millions of encounters law enforcement has on the streets every single year is just patently absurd.”

Yost called for better, more consistent funding for officer training and countered calls nationally to reduce spending on law enforcement.

“Defunding chronically underfunded police agencies is hardly the way to promote public safety,” he said. “We don’t need less policing, we need better policing.”

New officers complete 700-plus hours of basic training and then are placed on the job, and “maybe there’s money this year or next year for training or maybe not ... My No. 1 priority is to make sure that that changes during my term in office. I want regular, dedicated funding.”

Monday’s conference started on a somber note, with Yost offering a moment of silence for Cleveland Police Detective James Skernivitz, who was killed earlier this month during an undercover drug investigation.

Another Cleveland officer, Nick Sabo, distraught over Skernivitiz’s death, took his own life a few days later.

“I know we don’t like to talk about cop suicide, but he died in the line of duty, just as much as Detective Skernivitz did, because the stress of this time that pushed him over the edge, the loss of his friend, the increasing danger on the streets or the lack of support in so many quarters in our society,” Yost said. “We need to be thinking carefully not only about ourselves but about the people we serve next two, because these are tough times, and not all wounds come from a bullet or a knife, and not all of them are visible.”

©2020 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)