Emphasizing Ohio’s $274 million investment in law enforcement priorities, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted held a roundtable discussion on Monday with Northwest Ohio sheriffs.
Held at the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, the focus was on Husted’s and Gov. Mike DeWine’s public safety priorities, investment in law enforcement and strategies to protect Ohio officers and communities.
“We’ve had $274 million allocated for law enforcement over the last six months. It’s for a variety of things. It’s for body cameras, crime prevention, resiliency and training. The law enforcement offices around this country are very stressed. There are a lot of people who have tried to give law enforcement a bad name. Why not highlight the great things they do?” Husted said. “They are your friends. They are the ones who help create safe communities, protect your property and protect you.”
Four county’s sheriff offices were represented at the event: Wood, Fulton, Hardin and Ottawa, with a total of 10 members. Ohio Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, also took part.
Husted put an emphasis on training, recruitment and retention of law enforcement personnel.
“Law enforcement teams from around the region, and the country, frankly, are strained right now. They have had a very difficult time recruiting people that they need,” Husted said. “First of all, we have demographic problems in the country right now. We have a shrinking working age workforce, people have just not come back to work at the rate that we want them too, plus the ages of people between 25 and 60 is shrinking. So we have a smaller pool of people to draw from.”
He hit on increased public relations efforts, stressing that law enforcement personnel are being supported, providing training and counseling.
“I’m out here today making a pitch to people who maybe are looking for a career change,” Husted said. “You can go to the websites of the sheriff’s offices, or the local police department, and see that they are recruiting, that they will do the training. You can do the career transition and become a law enforcement official, and we are trying to give law enforcement the resources so they can compete in recruiting.”
Many law enforcement offices are paying for the training, something which only started recently.
“Times have changed. I will hire you now and pay you to go to the academy,” Hardin County Sheriff Keith Everhart said.
Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn has similar programs. The website has details about how to apply and utilize the training programs they are offering.
“We’re willing to help provide the training, counseling and the technology, all in an effort to make their jobs easier and let them know that they are supported,” Husted said.
Husted also spoke about provision of additional support for mental health, for the general population.
“Also, building out the mental health system in the state, so that law enforcement, the jails and retention centers don’t have to be mental health professionals. That we are giving them the resources, building that network of mental health specialists and hospitals, to take care of the growing burden of the mental health crisis,” Husted said.
Wasylyshyn called mental health a national issue, saying that there are not enough mental health beds.
“We have people in our jail, who have been pink slipped,” Wasylyshyn said of the category that requires the services of a psychiatrist. “We don’t have enough beds. We have a crisis state in the jail. That is a huge disservice for my deputies, who did not sign up to work in a mental hospital. And, it is a huge disservice to the inmate who is in a terrible mental state. They should be getting psychiatric care and they are not getting it.”
He compared it to other medical conditions, like a heart attack. That person will be sent to a hospital immediately.
“Why aren’t we getting mental health care to people who need mental health care? The professionals are telling us this person needs it and the answer is that we don’t have enough beds. That’s not right,” Wasylyshyn said.