COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A newly proposed bill moving through the Ohio Statehouse would decrease the age requirement an Ohioan must be to join the police force.
Right now, to become a police officer in Ohio, applicants must be 21 years old, but Senate Bill 53 would drop that age requirement to 18. The bill is sponsored by Ohio Sens. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) and Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson).
The bill had its second committee hearing Wednesday and both proponents and sponsors of the bill said the legislation will help with workforce recruitment.
“America is currently facing a shortage of police officers, and Ohio is no stranger to this crisis,” Roegner said during testimony. “This change would permit all communities to appoint police officers at age 18, freeing up three additional years of eligible candidates.”
“Those who are trained at the police academy must wait until they turn 21 years old to be hired as a sworn police officer,” Reynolds said. “As a result, this time gap from police academy graduation and employment causes a loss of recruitment.”
Roegner said it is important to note that this law would make it permissive, meaning departments do not have to change their current hiring practices if they do not want to.
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said while he understands the concerns some people may have, he thinks it can be done correctly to help police departments across the state.
“I’m generally in favor of this, especially if this is something that law enforcement needs,” Huffman said. “There’s a lot of 18-year-olds I think would make good police officers. They have to have the proper training and there probably needs to be additional scrutiny of people of that age to make sure it’s okay.”
A companion bill, House Bill 84, has been introduced in the House and had its first hearing Wednesday.