How often do law enforcement officers shoot a weapon on the job or use another type of force in the performance of their duties? The state keeps track of these statistics, but not all police departments participate.
Six of Stark County’s 23 law enforcement agencies voluntarily reported more than 100 incidents in which officers used force on the job last year.
Most of those incidents occurred in Canton, which has one of the largest police departments in the county. Canal Fulton, Louisville and Uniontown police departments weighed in.
But not all departments are included as participation is voluntary.
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The Stark County Sheriff’s Office, which employs about 260 people, appears to have had no incidents.
Sheriff George Maier said it was because his use-of-force reports entered the state’s information system — Ohio Law Enforcement Information System — but weren’t forwarded to the Services Bureau. Ohio Criminal Justice, which maintains the use of force database.
Maier said his office reports all of his use-of-force incidents (17 documented last year) but the system does not share the information with the OCJS.
“We’re reporting it, but it’s an issue at the end of the state. It’s not going over to OCJS,” he said, adding that the new system he hopes to have in place d ‘by the end of the year will correct the problem.
The township’s numbers are also higher because their use of force categories differ from those of the county.
How to Use the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services Database
Late last year, the OCJS took its use of force database online, allowing the public to search for cases and disaggregate them by location, gender, race and other details. It highlights more than 5,500 incidents reported by more than 200 Ohio law enforcement agencies since 2018.
Anyone with internet access can view the list and filter it, for example, by police department, time and date, circumstances that brought the police to the scene, whether the suspect was armed or suspected of being armed, injuries, race and sex.
“Use of force data helps Ohio identify the scenarios that most often lead to the use of force so that we can offer specific de-escalation training directly related to those situations,” said OCJS Executive Director Karhlton Moore. “The data may also be used by the OCJS to direct federal grants to targeted areas to help improve community-police relations.”
Reporting to the database is voluntary because “there is no legislation on the books that would require law enforcement to contribute to the database,” said Bret Crow, director of communications for the Department of Ohio Public Safety.
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Governor Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost announced plans to make the database public in June 2020 as part of legislative reforms to improve transparency, accountability and education.
“Statewide public data related to the use of force will not only provide transparency to the citizens of Ohio, but it will also improve our understanding of why these incidents are happening so that we can work proactively to prevent them in the future,” DeWine said.
The database is not designed to include incidents in which an officer removes a firearm from a holster and points it at someone – or “any other type of weapon or device that is lethal or less than deadly,” the state said.
Canton reports such incidents to the state, said Lt. John Bosley, who heads the city’s Office of Professional Standards.
“We report everything, and we do it for transparency,” he said.
Township police consider every time an officer pulls a gun or Taser, pepper spray, baton or any other instrument – and every time a K-9 officer is removed from a vehicle on locations — such as reportable incidents as use of force, Bosley says.
In June 2020, Mayor Thomas Bernabei signed an Obama Foundation pledge to reform police use of force policies and endorsed the national “8 Can’t Wait” campaign. The campaign demands that officers first try to defuse situations before using force.
Majority of reports come from Guangzhou
Police forces have come under intense scrutiny in Canton after City Officer Robert A. Huber shot through a fence and killed a man firing an AR-15 into the air on New Year’s Day. Year.
The state database lists more than 450 use-of-force incidents in Stark County. As of February 1, no incident had been recorded for this year.
About 67% of incidents from 2018 to 2021 took place in Guangzhou. And about 60% of those reported last year in the county occurred in the city.
Perry Township had the second-highest number last year, with 36, according to the database. Canal Fulton reported six incidents, Massillon reported two, and Uniontown and Louisville each had a single report, according to the database.
While the Massillon police department recorded only two incidents last year, this city recorded 15 in 2018 and 16 in 2019.
Interested in exploring the Bureau of Criminal Justice Services database? Go online to https://www.ocjs.ohio.gov and click on “Ohio Use of Force Data” on the left side of the website.