COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Several central Ohio police departments are skeptical of a bill progressing at the Statehouse that would lower the minimum hiring age for officers.
Senate Bill 53 at the Ohio Statehouse allowing police department to hire officers as young as age 18 passed on Wednesday.
The police chiefs for Gahanna and Whitehall have heard about Senate Bill 53, but they don’t know yet if it will actually become law. So, for now, nothing is changing for either department.
“We control who we hire,” said Whitehall Police Chief Mike Crispen. “So, we’re not as concerned whether our agency is going to get somebody we don’t feel is fit to be a police officer, and I don’t know if there is any evidence about that, whether you are 18, 19, who knows?”
While Whitehall’s police department is not facing staffing issues, Gahanna is currently trying to recruit more officers. Still, Gahanna Division of Police Chief Jeff Spence said hiring younger officers may not be the solution to their problem.
“The bill would task people in that 18 to 21-year-old age group with enforcing laws of mere possession which, by law, they can’t possess. So, it creates a number of legal conflicts that I don’t think were foreseen,” said Chief Spence.
Both chiefs said they are a bit confused by the wording in the bill because it goes against certain laws, like the age required to buy alcohol and tobacco.
“We just say that the legislature ought to deal with its conflict and sending conflicting messages for us,” said Chief Crispen. “Are they not adult enough to do certain things but then adult enough to make life-or-death constitutional decisions?”
However, cities and department will not be required to change their officer minimum age if the bill becomes law. For now, both chiefs said they will wait and see what happens in the legislature before making any decisions for their departments.