As demonstrations continue in honor of George Floyd, and many cities in Ohio and elsewhere have come under fire for police response to such protests, Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced he is asking Ohio's Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board to develop minimum standards on law enforcement response to mass protests.
They include determining:
- When measures like tear gas, pepper spray, non-lethal projectiles become necessary
- What tactics and techniques are best practices for dealing with a crowd that is failing to disperse
- How law enforcement can prevent members of the media from being injured
- When tactics become excessive for a given situation
"Let me be clear: when protests morph from peaceful to violent, law enforcement must be empowered to act," DeWine said. "We are not looking to give a small number of violent protestors a free pass – far from it. What we do want, though, is for peaceful demonstrators to feel safe when asserting their First Amendment rights, and for the public to be protected against violence and destruction of their property."
DeWine, who started his announcement by acknowledging Floyd's funeral taking place at the same time in his hometown of Houston, said it would be "helpful" to have these uniform standards throughout the state of Ohio.
Former Gov. John Kasich established the Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board in 2014 "after a series of incidents in Ohio and around the nation highlighted the challenges between the community and police," according to its website.
Since its creation, the collaborative has developed standards on use of force; hiring and recruitment; community engagement; body cameras; bias-free policing; and employee misconduct. Last year, DeWine also directed the collaborative to set minimum standards on law enforcement pursuits by automobile.
DeWine said as of now, 79% of Ohio's law enforcement officers work for an agency that has voluntarily complied with the existing standards or is currently in the process of complying. That includes departments throughout Hamilton County, including Cincinnati, as well as departments in Columbus and Dayton.
"However, the number of these certified agencies only make up a little more than half of all of Ohio's departments," DeWine said. "There are over 800 departments; more than 400 of those agencies in the state have not chosen to pursue certification showing that they meet those minimum standards."
DeWine said there are many reasons why those departments may have chosen not to comply, including having their own set of standards that are "just as good, if not higher."
Still, he encouraged those 400+ departments to begin working on this process. "I've directed the Department of Public Safety Office of Criminal Justice Services, which oversees the certification process, to reach out directly to every single police agency in the state that is not meeting these standards and assist them in any way that they can."
A list of departments currently in and out of compliance can be found here.
Dr. Susan Kolertar, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Ohio State University, joined via Skype to talk about the difference of a person being "asymptomatic" and "pre-symptomatic," two words currently in the news thanks to a recent report by the World Health Organization that seemed to suggest that someone who has coronavirus but does not exhibit symptoms cannot transmit the virus.
Officials have since clarified that asymptomatic people can spread the virus, but it is unknown how common that is.
"I'm not sure we know how many people who are truly asymptomatic actually go on to transmit infections because we have not done that type of contract tracing," she said. "What is important is that - and I think we do know - that people who have symptoms or are pre-symptomatic [those just starting to show signs of the virus] are infectious. We've seen this with influenza, too, so it's not actually that surprising."
Both Kolertar and DeWine then re-emphasized the importance of handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks.
"[Masking] in particular is related to that pre-symptomatic potential for spread, both from the source - the person wearing the mask - to other people in the public," Kolertar said. "So when everyone is wearing masks, that decreases the likelihood of transmission from one person to another."