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Ohio bill lowering hiring age for officers gains support from young LEOs

Trainees and current officers respond to criticisms about maturity and supervision

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Ohio Senate

By Bill Carey

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Senate and House bills in Ohio that would lower the minimum hiring age of police officers from 21 to 18 are getting the support of current and incoming law enforcement officers across the state.

Pataskala Police Department officer Cami Finley is completing her field training in a job she chose as a high schooler. However, there are concerns about the maturity of 18-year-olds as law enforcement officers, Ohio Capital Journal reported.

Officer William Hayes, 21, said that lowering the minimum age would help people like him get into law enforcement more quickly and would help address some departments’ officer shortages.

“Giving departments permissive ability to hire officers at 18 will give them the opportunity to properly staff their department and have enough resources to protect the community they serve,” Hayes said.

Addressing questions about the maturity of 18-year-olds and their readiness to serve as law enforcement officers, Finley told the committees that department leadership keeps a close eye on young officers and hold the discretion to pull an officer away from the front line.

“I believe there are people older than the age of 21 who may not be mature enough for the job,” said Finley. “Age and maturity are not one and the same.”

[WATCH: Ohio State Senate Government Oversight Committee Hearing]

Additionally, concerns about an increase in police officers putting a strain on the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund were raised in the Senate committee hearing. However, State Sen. Kristina Roegner, SB 53 co-sponsor and chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee, said the pension system isn’t worried about an influx of young officers.

Roegner said the pension fund administrators found “no apparent negative impact on our pension fund by allowing a public safety officer to begin his or her career at the age of 18.”

EARLIER: Ohio bill may drop minimum LEO hiring age from 21 to 18 to help recruitment