COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio’s Attorney General says the state’s criminal investigators are overworked, and it’s putting a strain on resources.
“Some of those folks are looking a little zombie-like,” Attorney General Dave Yost said, adding that calls for assistance come in at all hours.
NBC4 Investigates asked the Office of the Attorney General how many times local law enforcement agencies have requested assistance from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation so far in 2021, plus the number of requests from previous years.
As of May 25, BCI’s Crime Scene Unit had received 173 requests in 2021. By the same date in 2020, the unit had been requested 81 times. It was requested 155 times by that point in 2019.
The increase in requests for the Special Investigation Unit was more dramatic; 316 so far in 2021, compared to 185 requests by the same date in 2020, and 191 the previous year.
Yost said the primary reason for the increase in calls for assistance is a statewide spike in violent crime. He also said more local law enforcement agencies are asking BCI to lead investigations into critical officer-involved incidents.
“The number of officer-involved critical incidents – remaining pretty steady. There’s no spike in them,” Yost said. “As we’ve had more attention on these things and there’s been growing skepticism on the community about a department investigating its own, we’re getting more calls because the community is saying, ‘We want this not only to be professional, expert and thorough. We want it to be independent.’”
It is policy for the Columbus Police Department to ask BCI to investigate when an officer shoots someone, but not all local agencies in Ohio have such a policy.
Because of the increase in demand on BCI, Yost has asked the Ohio Legislature for an additional $7.7 million for operating expenses in the next fiscal year, to $70.8 million, from the originally proposed $63.1 million.
“The additional money will be used to defray our costs for the rising number of officer-involved critical incidents,” said Steve Irwin, Yost’s press secretary. “Other uses include support for BCI’s background check system, drug chemistry unit and other lab supplies and equipment fees.”
Yost also said he’d like to hire additional BCI agents.
According to Ohio Checkbook, the Office of the Attorney General spent more than $310 million during fiscal year 2021.
The state’s operating budget passed the House of Representatives. It is now pending in the Senate.