Ohio To Set Standards For Police Use Of Deadly Force
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There were protests last night in Cleveland. And there were some arrests, although the demonstrations were mostly peaceful. The protests came after a judge acquitted Officer Michael Brelo in the 2012 deaths of two unarmed suspects. Police-community relations have been strained in Cleveland since the original incident two and a half years ago. Ohio Governor John Kasich recently put together a group to look at that divide and to make recommendations for how to bridge the gap between the city and police. Nina Turner is a former state Senator of Ohio and co-chair of the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations. She joins us on the line from Cleveland. Thanks so much for being with us.
NINA TURNER: Oh, thanks for having me, Rachel.
MARTIN: As I mentioned, you've been part of the governor's effort. Will this decision yesterday to acquit the officer involved - will this affect the work that you're doing?
TURNER: I mean, it really just reinforces what so many across the state of Ohio had to say about their relationship, or lack thereof, with law enforcement. So in that way, it does impact the work. But on the other hand, it definitely points to the fierce urgency of getting actionable results that were recommended by the task force so that we can begin to rebuild the trust between the community and the police.
MARTIN: How do you fix that? What are some of the specific recommendations your task force has come up with?
TURNER: Well, accountability and oversight, you know, we heard all across the state that we've got to make sure that law enforcement agencies and the officers that work for those law enforcement agencies are held accountable by the community that they serve. A lot of folks, Rachel, said they understood that this is not just about the police officer. It really is about the justice system itself. Recruiting and hiring came up - the feeling that there are not enough officers of color, particularly African-American and Latino officers and women. You know, there have been many studies that have been done that show that women really have the strong skills to de-escalate a situation. And we need more women. And then of course standards - there really are no minimum standards in the state of Ohio for police officers when it comes to the use of force and the use of deadly force. And so those were really the major recommendations. Oh, and last - how I could forget this one? - training. Lots of folks wanted to make sure that police get the requisite training that they need to be able to do their jobs better. And no one, absolutely no one, was anti-police, even when we heard some of the most troubling stories. Everyone acknowledged that we do, in fact, need the police, that we need each other.
MARTIN: You come at this from such a unique perspective. You, yourself, are African-American. You sit on the governor's task force. Your husband and your son are both police officers. What have the conversations been like in your family as you talk about this moment in this country?
TURNER: It's difficult. Yeah, my husband is a former police officer and our son is a current police officer. And I tell you, my heart is heavy because, you know, by and large most police officers go to work every day, and they do want to protect and serve. But there are those who probably should not be police officers right now. So this is heavy because, again, society, we do need police because there are not perfect people. There are bad people out in the world. But African-Americans and other poor people and people of color have a right to question the injustices of a system and demand justice but still understand very clearly that we do need the police. We can turn this thing around and good police officers want to see this thing turned around. Rachel, we have to do this. We have no other choice. We have to do this.
MARTIN: Nina Turner is co-chair of the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations. Thanks so much for talking with us.
TURNER: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.