- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio would boost the amount of training to become a police officer and require all candidates for jobs in law enforcement to have a high school diploma under legislation announced Tuesday at the Ohio Statehouse.

Ohio also needs to raise the number of advanced training hours above four per year, but must figure out a way to pay for it, legislative leaders and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said.

The measures follow recommendations for upgrading police training and standards that emerged from committees convened by DeWine and Gov. John Kasich in the wake of protests in Ohio and nationally over fatal police shootings.

“Adequate training, and I would say, exceptional training, is as important to the safety of our officers as bullet proof vests or a gun or a safe cruiser,” said Senate President Keith Faber, who announced the bills along with DeWine and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger.

The training legislation would lift the current cap of 605 required hours, a move which would allow the state’s police training commission to set a higher amount that has yet to be determined. Faber and Rosenberger said it’s for police professionals on the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy to establish the specific figure, not lawmakers.

Ohio is one of only three states that doesn’t require a high school diploma to become a police officer, although in practice most officers have that and more. The change wouldn’t affect any current officers without a diploma.

Currently, the state training academy must reimburse police departments $20 an hour per officer for additional training beyond four hours, making it financially implausible with about 34,000 officers in the state, the legislators said.

Faber said the Senate, which is working on its version of Kasich’s two-year, $72 billion state spending plan, is looking at ways to provide assistance for extra training. Many big city departments go beyond the four hours. DeWine says reaching a mandatory 40 hours is a reasonable goal. Ohio is in the bottom third of states when it comes to advanced training requirements.

DeWine’s task force questioned whether Ohio has too many police academies, with low success rates at some smaller academies run by community colleges.

The head of the training academy has said he doesn’t foresee reducing the number, currently around 70. Faber said the question is the quality of the training the academies offer.

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