COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas issued the following statement in response to the rash of violent shooting incidents related to community-police relations across the country. Senator Thomas served with the Cincinnati Police Department for 27 years before pursuing elected office.
“My heart aches for all lives lost this week, police and civilian. As a state and as a nation, we should be working to build an environment in which all violence becomes less and less frequent. The problem is complex. Our minority communities feel marginalized by the current system. Many are struggling to access economic opportunities and quality education. Our police officers are overworked, underpaid, and under-trained. We have set our communities and law enforcement up to fail.
“It will take all of us working together to solve the long term problem of violence in our communities. Police have asked community members to speak up when they see something awry in their communities. The same principle should apply when officers of good faith identify something troublesome within their departments. Both pieces are critical in our common goal of protecting public safety.
“This is an ongoing problem, and legislators have no excuse not to act. There is a lot we can do as a legislature to improve community-police relations and decrease instances of violence. We need to address the issues that keep minority communities on the sidelines, such as poverty and low quality education. Law enforcement oversight and criminal justice reform will also be critical to the overall solution.”
Earlier in this General Assembly, Senator Thomas introduced a bill - Senate Bill 23 – that would invest $15 million into law enforcement training throughout Ohio. It would help officers manage tense situations and teach de-escalation tactics that could save lives. Senator Thomas gave sponsor testimony on this bill in the State and Local Government Committee in February 2015. It currently awaits additional hearings.