COLUMBUS – As Ohio leaders look to improve police-community relations, a new report offers insight into the mental and emotional health impacts caused by current policing practices. The research released by health and criminal justice groups included a survey from 470 residents from neighborhoods in Akron and Cincinnati.
Stephen JohnsonGrove, deputy director with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, says nearly 70 percent of white respondents reported trusting the police either “somewhat” or “a lot” compared to 40 percent of black respondents.
“In those neighborhoods, people are experiencing police contact,” says JohnsonGrove. “One in eight people were experiencing it at least a week, some were up to one to two times a day.”
JohnsonGrove says these interactions can cause stress and hurt the mental health and well-being of both the public and police. The research suggests four specific actions to improve relations including civilian board reviews, body cameras, department-level performance measures and the training, supervision and evaluation of officers.
Community policy organization Human Impact Partners collaborated on the report, and senior research associate Sara Satinsky says the recommendations can restore trust, improve safety and build safer environments for residents and police. She explains officers also need additional support.
“A lot of the work being done by police departments is what we may think of as more in the social service realm, and officers may or may not have the training and support they need for this,” says Satinsky. “So it’s a recommendation to really better support our officers in the roles that society is asking them to fill.”
JohnsonGrove hopes state leaders consider the research as they address law enforcement reforms.
“This study really contributes to those conversations,” says JohnsonGrove. “Saying ‘When you’re choosing how to implement these recommendations, make sure you do them right in a way that increases trust and increases public safety.’”
The Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board is developing standards to guide law enforcement, including guidelines on the use of deadly force and for law-enforcement recruitment and hiring.