Proponents say they will hire more people, but opponents argue that some 18-year-olds lack the maturity and life experience needed for the job.
TOLEDO, Ohio — A controversial new bill in the Ohio House of Representatives would change the minimum age to become a police officer from 21 to 18.
author of House Bill 84 It helps address police shortages across the state and gives local departments the option to hire young recruits they deem ready.
The need for more officers has been a persistent problem for the Toledo Police Department for many years. The department’s newly appointed police chief, Mike Troll, believes the new bill could finally be the solution his department needs.
“We need more people, and if this allows more people to get through the door, that would be beneficial,” said Troendle.
At the same time, however, he hesitated at the idea that a very young person would be in a very challenging position.
“I entered[into the police]at 21, and there were days when I felt like I was too young. I wasn’t mature enough,” Troendle said. It doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone, some 25-year-olds aren’t as mature as some 18-year-olds, so it’s going to have to be handled on a case-by-case basis.”
Phil Stinson, a criminology professor at Bowling Green State University and a former police officer, expressed similar concerns.
Stinson has spent the last 20 years researching police misconduct and amassing the nation’s largest police crime database. His findings, he says, show a startling correlation between police crime and age.
“Executives hired where they can be hired under the age of 21 are more likely to engage in career-ending misconduct and ultimately lose their jobs,” Stinson said.
According to Stinson, such behavior stems from a lack of maturity required when someone wears a badge.
“Sometimes you find that younger officers are more likely to get into off-duty brawls,” he said. “When more experienced officers exercise more discretion and judgment in how to handle such situations, they are more likely to intervene off-duty.”
Stinson says new officers often rely on previous life experiences to know how to behave. But if you’re 18, your most recent life experience was high school.
He feared that, in the long run, what appeared to be a staffing solution would instead pile the department on a string of legal embarrassments.
“It’s generally only done in institutions and jurisdictions that have changed laws to address perceived problems, but it creates other problems,” Stinson said. It’s discouraging and ridiculous.”
Mr Stinson said police departments could try recruiting from criminal justice classes like his own instead of recruiting outside of high school.
Michael Haynes, president of the Toledo Patrolmen’s Association, is also unsure if youth hiring is the solution. He said he was discussing raising the upper age limit from 35 to 40.
This is an idea that Stinson strongly supports.
“In some regions the cut-off appears to be quite low. They would be past the age to be hired as local police officers,” Stinson said. “So there are other ways to look at this as well.”
The bill now awaits additional hearings at the Homeland Security Commission.
WTOL 11 reached out to Rep. Josh Williams of Ohio (R-Oregon), one of the bill’s authors, for comment.
Details from WTOL 11:
https://www.wtol.com/article/news/local/house-bill-would-change-ohio-minimum-age-requirement-for-police-officers/512-35302c9d-0df0-4128-b00b-8298affdf984 Proposed law changes minimum age requirement for Ohio police officers