LONDON, Ohio (WCMH) – A new statewide task force is looking to reshape the way Ohio law enforcement officers learn to protect and serve, and the chair of that task force is a familiar face to many in central Ohio.
Former Columbus police Chief Thomas Quinlan is leading the blue ribbon task force, formed this month by Attorney General Dave Yost to identify and fix what’s lacking in law enforcement training in Ohio.
Quinlan began his role as the assistant director of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London in March, two months after leaving the Columbus Division of Police.
“I always try to learn more from my failures than I do my successes,” said Quinlan, who served as CPD’s Chief for about a year.
He stepped down in January 2021, returning to an assistant chief role after months of turmoil, which saw officers clashing with protesters downtown following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
When asked if he would have done anything differently during his tenure as chief, Quinlan replied, “I look forward in everything I do– you know, regardless of good or bad. I again– I learned a lot from the successes I’ve had in my career of 36 years. And I learned a lot from anywhere where things didn’t go the way I wanted. You take all those lessons.”
Quinlan now looks to apply those lessons as chair of a newly-formed task force to improve law enforcement training.
“Everything in policing evolves and changes. Expectations change, laws change, court rulings change,” Quinlan said. “So we need to change training to maintain the response that the public is expecting from police.”
According to Quinlan, one of the biggest needs is repetitive, scenario-based training that’s accessible to officers in all agencies across the state, and less focused on a classroom.
“It’s a chance for officers to actually test out these new tactics that we’re going to be presenting, and let them see where the strengths are and where the weaknesses are, and what equipment might be needed to make this happen,” Quinlan said.
OPOTA is teaming up with Ohio University to film six new scenarios for its 360-degree video simulator, which helps immerse officers in different scenarios that respond based on the officer’s reactions. Quinlan said the new scenarios will focus on responding to mental health crises, an officer’s duty to intervene, and how information can quickly change over the course of a law enforcement response.
“As an officer responds, they have limited information,” Quinlan said. “In these scenarios, they’re going to be getting new information, which should be altering their response based on that new information.”
Quinlan also wants to focus on refresher courses that can benefit even the most experienced law enforcement veterans, on skills like driving.
“They maybe were trained 20 years ago on a (Ford) Crown Vic. Now they’re driving these SUVs,” Quinlan said. “Part of the idea is to build a like a four-hour room skills refresher day. So that gives them time to be able to drive two hours to get here, four hours on the skills pad, and two hours back home. They can do it in one shift.”
The formation of the task force follows a round of new funding passed earlier this year by Ohio lawmakers, and coincides with new OPOTA leadership looking to reform and bolster statewide law enforcement training.
“As support grows for establishing permanent state funding for law enforcement training, the time is right to pull together leaders from Ohio’s policing community to help us continue to shape the future of training,” the Yost said in a press release announcing the task force. “The work of this task force, coupled with the new courses our team at OPOTA has already developed, will position Ohio to be a national leader in police training.”
The task force is made up of local law enforcement leaders from across Ohio– but also has two non-law enforcement members with experience in crisis intervention and interactions with youth.