WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), during National Police Week, took to the Senate Floor this week to honor fallen officers and recommit to securing critical resources and providing support for law enforcement in Ohio and their families. Police Week is an annual event honoring law enforcement officers and their families and serving as a remembrance of officers who have died in the line of duty. Brown is also set to introduce bipartisan legislation to improve police training with U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), John Boozman (R-AR), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Bob Casey (D-PA).
“In addition to their general public safety duties, police officers are often asked to respond to mental health crises, defuse domestic disputes, and even manage addiction and homelessness in high-stakes situations without adequate training to handle the situation. When our law enforcement officers have the training and resources they need to respond to mental health crises, we can better ensure the safety of our first responders, individuals in crisis, and members of our communities,” said Brown.
The Law Enforcement Training For Mental Health Crisis Response Act of 2021 would provide $15 million in funding over 3 years through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to help train police on how to best interact with individuals with mental health illnesses and resolve and de-escalate any potential issues that may arise. The goal of the bill is to improve training for these types of responses to better keep our officers safe, ensure individuals in crisis are treated with dignity, and improve trust amongst the communities affected.
Brown has been a leader in police reform legislation. Last year, Senator Brown helped introduce the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a comprehensive package that puts important policing reforms into place, helps ends racial profiling in the criminal justice system and works to improve police-community relations.
Brown has also cosponsored legislation, the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, to better enforce equal protection laws and work to end racial profiling in the criminal justice system.
Brown’s remarks on the Senate Floor, as prepared for delivery, are below:
Each year, during Police Week, we honor the law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their communities.
This year, we will add the names of four Ohioans to the National Law Enforcement Memorial, who laid down their lives last year:
- Corporal Adam McMillan, of Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office
- Detective James Michael Skernivitz, of Cleveland
- Patrolman Anthony Hussein Dia, of Toledo
- Officer Kaia Grant, of Springdale
And sadly, we already know of two name that will be added to the Memorial next year:
Officer Brandon Stalker, of the Toledo Police Department, and Officer Jason Lagore, who worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Each one of these losses is a tragedy for a family, for a community, and for their fellow officers.
Over the past year we have had many reminders of the work that must be done to reform and reimagine public safety, and to rebuild trust between law enforcement and so many communities.
These Ohioans’ lives are a reminder of the ideals we should strive for – we need officers who are true public servants, in the best sense of the word. People who give themselves to their communities.
And these Ohioans gave so much.
Officer Anthony Dia was the father of two young sons who married his high school sweetheart.
In a letter he wrote to his family during Ramadan, the devout Muslim wrote, “Every day I put on the uniform, it was with the intention to protect the innocent and the weak in my community.”
The Imam who spoke at his memorial service said, “When you think of Islam, think of this man who gave his life on the Fourth of July to defend the values of the United States.”
Detective James Skernivitz spent serving my city, in Cleveland. He served in neighborhood policing districts, and in 2013, he joined the Gang Impact Unit, working to reduce gun violence on Cleveland’s East Side.
He was also a devoted father, and played softball for many years, traveling to tournaments with the Steel City Enforcers.
Cpl. Adam McMillan spent 19 years serving the public at the sheriff’s office in Hamilton County. So many in his community spoke about his kindness.
At his memorial service, the pastor said, “He was the kind of guy who asked the person in the drive-thru window how their day was going.”
And his generous spirit will live on – Cpl. McMillan was an organ donor, and his loss is giving new life to someone else.
Kaia Grant was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps in college. After graduating and working with at-risk kids in Cincinnati, she joined the Springdale PD. Her coworker at the department said, “Instead of going into the military and then going into politics, like many do, she wanted to serve the community.”
Another colleague relayed a story when she saved a woman’s life. The department got a call about a person considering taking her own life, and they searched and searched, but found no one. They were close to giving up – but Officer Grant didn’t.
She found the woman in a parking garage, in time to save her life.
As part of her dedication to our country, Officer Grant interned for a U.S. senator while she was in college. That senator’s name was Joe Biden. Earlier this year, on his first trip to Ohio as President, Joe Biden met with Officer Grant’s mother, Gina Mobley, to thank her for her daughter’s service to him, to her country, and to her community.
We cannot begin to repay the debt we owe Gina Mobley and all of these families. But we can work to reform our systems, to protect more officers and the communities they swear an oath to protect.
This week I’m reintroducing bipartisan Law Enforcement Training for Mental Health Crisis Response Act with Senator Inhofe.
We’ve seen too many Americans – both officers and than those they serve – hurt or killed when law enforcement respond to people in their communities suffering a mental health crisis.
This bill would invest in training to help officers resolve those situations safely for themselves, and for the communities they serve.
Law enforcement officers, reformers, advocates all agree that we have pushed too many problems onto the criminal justice system – expecting officers to be social workers and crisis responders and family mediators, without the proper training to fill those roles.
We need actually invest in mental health and education and other social supports. And we need to give officers the training and resources they need to help, when they are called on to respond to these situations.
This Police Week, let’s offer more than empty words.
Let’s honor the memories of these women and men who laid down their lives in service of their communities, by getting their fellow officers the tools and training they need to do their jobs, and to build trust with the communities they’re sworn to protect.