Police diversity training closer to becoming reality for Ohio chiefs

COLUMBUS (WYTV) – Racial tension has affected relationships between some police departments and the communities they serve.

Diversity training has often been a solution some have put forward to assuage these tensions.

A bill that could soon become law makes that training mandatory for newly-hired police chiefs.

Senate Bill 37 creates a 40-hour class for new chiefs to be held twice a year at the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy.

The state attorney general’s office will pay for chiefs to attend the course. It will be up to their jurisdictions to take care of their travel, lodging, and food costs.

Current police chiefs say the culture of their departments is often a reflection of themselves and it is important they are prepared.

“Anytime you can increase the professionalism on the policing leaders, it’s a win for Ohio,” said Joel Herzog, the police chief in Westchester.

He is familiar with the struggles smaller communities have in finding and keeping chiefs.

“Sometimes these smaller agencies go from a line officer up to a police chief in the matter of a day,” Herzog said. “This training is absolutely necessary.”

The content of the training would be decided by the police commission but the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Cliff Hite, said diversity training must be included.

“Diversity training was, by far, right at the top of the discussion and a point of necessity for the training process,” Hite said.

The legislation does allow chiefs to apply for an exemption to a portion of the training and provides options for chiefs who have medical issues that would prevent them from participating.

All new police chiefs sworn in on or after January 1, 2018 would be subject to this training if the bill becomes law.

They will have six months to take the course.

Because the bill was passed with an amendment, it is headed back to the Senate for a final vote.