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Ohio's police-community relations task force begins its work

Nick Castele

CLEVELAND - A state task force on police-community relations held its first meeting here Tuesday night and heard from about 20 citizens on their treatment by police.

Some speakers recommended collecting data on racial profiling in Ohio, training officers to respond to people with mental illness, and setting up an independent panel to review police shootings. Many speakers urged the task force to consider race in its final proposals.

The task force is slated to deliver a report to Gov. John Kasich by the end of April.

Akron Police Sgt. Brian Armstead, a task force member, asked the audience to support putting enough money toward making these proposals happen.

“One of the common denominators that I heard from the recommendations seemed to be training, knowledge,’’ Armstead said. “Let’s make our police officers better equipped. I’m sure the community is going to hold our feed to the fire on that. All of those things are going to require funding.”

State Rep. Alicia Reece is a task force member and heads the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. The Cincinnati Democrat says action could take several paths.

“Could be a bill and executive orders,” Reece said. “Could be something the attorney general could get done right now. Could be something the governor could implement right now. Could be something the General Assembly could see passing.”

The group also heard from U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, who outlined the Justice Department’s finding that Cleveland police too often used excessive force.