Ohio Senate Bill Seeks to Reduce Police Officer Age Requirement to Address Police Shortage

A recently proposed law that is now making its way through the Ohio Statehouse would lower the age requirement for an Ohioan to join the police department.

In Ohio, applicants must currently be 21 years old to become police officers, but Senate Bill (SB) 53 would lower that age limit to 18. State Senators Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) and Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) have sponsored the legislation.

According to the senators, they intend the bill to address the scarcity of police officers due to difficulties in recruiting, widespread resignations, buyouts, and regular retirements.

“America is currently facing a shortage of police officers, and Ohio is no stranger to this crisis. This change would permit all communities to appoint police officers at age 18, freeing up three additional years of eligible candidates,” Roegner said.

“Those who are trained at the police academy must wait until they turn 21 years old to be hired as a sworn police officer. As a result, this time gap from police academy graduation and employment causes a loss of recruitment,” Reynolds said.

Under the “home rule” provisions of the Ohio Constitution, cities, townships, and counties in Ohio are already permitted to employ individuals who are 18 years old.

Fourteen states already allow 18-year-olds to become police officers, including neighboring states Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to Roegner.

But, the senators note that while 18-year-olds can join the U.S. military and become firefighters in Ohio, they cannot become police officers.

SB 53 leaves intact all training, physical, and licensing requirements to become a police officer in Ohio.

Roegner emphasized the significance of keeping in mind that this law would make hiring permissive, meaning that agencies have the option to alter their current recruiting procedures if they chose to.

Even while he acknowledges some individuals may have concerns, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) asserted that the state’s police agencies can be helped if the process is handled properly.

“I’m generally in favor of this, especially if this is something that law enforcement needs. 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,” Huffman said.

State Representative Steve Demetriou (R-Bainbridge Twp.) and State Representative Josh Williams (R-Oregon) have introduced a companion bill, House Bill (HB) 84 in the House which had its first hearing on Wednesday.

SB 53 is currently under review in the Senate Government Oversight Committee.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Michele Reynolds” by Michele Reynolds. Photo “Kristina Roegner” by The Ohio Senate. Background Photo “Ohio State Capitol Building” by Steven Miller. CC BY 2.0.


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