New state guides for how police use force and hire officers just don’t work for smaller communities like Wellington and aren’t necessary to begin with, says police chief Tim Barfield.
He’s decided not to comply with an initiative spearheaded by Ohio Gov. John Kasich that sets standards for community engagement, recruiting, body cameras, telecommunicator training, and when to use deadly force.
Executive Order 2015-04K formed the Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board in 2014 to “strengthen the fractured relationships that exist between law enforcement and some communities.”
“Quite honestly, its a political answer to a situation that doesn’t even exist,” Barfield said.
The Wellington police department will instead use a private risk assessment firm to shore up some of its policies.
Lexipol, a California based company, will be paid $5,139 by the village on a year-to-year basis.
Feb. 1 was the deadline to comply with the state’s standards. The exact consequences for not adopting them aren’t known, but one suspected by Barfield is higher insurance costs.
“If you don’t do what they want they’ll try to shame and bully you into doing this,” he said. “I haven’t talked to a police chief in multiple counties who think this is a good idea. No one knows what really happens if you don’t comply. The governor’s board will send you a ‘bad boy letter’ saying you didn’t do what they said. Maybe an insurance company would look at that and think it could be a problem.”
The Lorain County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol have complied along with the Avon, Elyria, Grafton, Lorain, and North Ridgeville police departments.
“Policy and guidelines for police departments are incredibly important,” said Barfield. “I’ve been behind the curve since the day I walked in the door in Wellington for reasons I don’t want to go into. I’ve fought for two years to try and write policy. It’s very time consuming along with all the other things I have to do. Using Lexipol will appease our insurance company, certainly help the village, and take a big burden off my shoulders.”
Barfield described the standards as being built with cities and larger communities in mind while lacking specifications for areas like Wellington.
“It’s a lot of policies that make sense in Cleveland or Columbus, but not here or in other smaller communities,” he said. “Wellington is allowed to make its own rules. Everybody has complied with Supreme Court use of force standards established in 1989. This is all just a political statement by the governor.”
The 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case Graham v. Connor established “objectively reasonable” standards in the event a someone claims police used excessive force in making an arrest or any search and seizure activity.
Lexipol’s services include policy help on everything from use of force to entering buildings and towing vehicles.
“It covers everything a police department needs to cover to get through day-to-day operations,” he added. “Imagine me trying to rewrite 155 policies. If the Supreme Court changes a rule, I have to research it, then stop and figure out how to implement it. Lexipol rolls it out and hands it down to all agencies that subscribe to its services. Then it’s done and out there.”
Barfield said lack of time and resources also factored in to the decision to hire the company.
“When I’m spending all my time complying with this stuff, I can’t do all the other things I need to do,” he said. “I don’t owe them anything. I don’t answer to the governor. I answer to the mayor and council, and have no legal reason to comply. We don’t get one dime as far as compensation for our time complying with all of this. Lexipol will save this department a lot of man hours.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.