In Columbus, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Dolan hosted a roundtable with law enforcement officials on Friday to highlight his record at the Statehouse and his plans for Washington. The senator from Chagrin Falls touts his ability as finance chairman to provide funds for police training, the fight against human trafficking and stemming the opioid crisis.
He, like many other Republicans running for office, is also trying to snare a quarter of a billion dollars in new funding from the US bailout. The $1.9 trillion COVID relief measure signed by President Joe Biden went into effect a year ago and has served as a punching bag and piggy bank ever since.
Despite sitting in the center of a table surrounded by law enforcement officials who have already endorsed him, Dolan told the room he doesn’t see this as a campaign event — more of a discussion. fluid. What he heard were major national issues reflected through a more parochial lens.
Fayette County Sheriff and National Sheriff’s Association President Vern Stanforth complained that fentanyl too easily crosses the southern border and ends up in Ohio communities.
“It’s almost become a full-time job looking for traffickers,” he said. “The cartels are talking about it, it’s a very orchestrated event and it’s something the government has to – they have to resist this…and I don’t see that happening.”
He and others spoke about the broader mood of distrust of the police and how it affects recruitment and makes the job more dangerous. A number of participants were concerned that school districts were cutting school resource officers. But when it comes to responsibility, the conversation remained vague.
“You don’t punish everybody for the acts of one,” Stanforth said. “And if we have bad cops, give us resources to take down those bad cops.”
Speaking after the event, Dolan echoed that rhetoric, saying, “If you’re a bad apple at any business, you should be sued and you shouldn’t be in the business anymore.”
One way to root out these bad cops is to better report and track police misconduct so officers who face discipline in one jurisdiction don’t just move on to another, but Dolan seemed skeptical of the idea.
“I don’t think the feds need to follow everyone,” he said. “You make the huge assumption that there are bad officers among us, that we don’t know who they are, and that’s just not the case. Because when somebody does wrongdoing, the media are everywhere around them and they are pursued.
Looking around the table, it was hard not to notice the prevalence of law enforcement officials elected to their position, rather than just hired to their position. But Dolan insisted he still had an idea of where the officers stood.
“I traveled the state talking to everyone,” he said. “There’s a consistent message everywhere, and that’s that we’re facing a drug crisis like we haven’t seen before, (and) there’s an attitude that the police feel to be the enemy.”
Still, there are recent examples of Dolan at odds with the law enforcement community. He recently voted for SB 215 which allows Ohioans to carry concealed weapons without pre-imposed training requirements. Sheriffs were largely silent on the issue — and Dolan counts a number of sheriffs among his supporters. But the state’s Fraternal Order of Police, Patroller Benevolent Association and Association of Police Chiefs have all aligned themselves against the bill, fearing it will make officers less safe.
Dolan defended his vote by explaining that he negotiated changes to a gun owner’s obligation to notify law enforcement that he has a gun and removing a provision on the immunity.
“In the spirit of negotiation, when you get something you have to recognize that part of it is that you have to live up to the underlying bill,” Dolan explained. “And for me it was look, in Ohio we have open carry, so if you can walk down the street with a gun on your hip, and not break the law, then get cold (and ) put on your sweater, you are immediately in violation of the law.
When it comes to how he would approach gun policy at the federal level, Dolan’s positions aren’t as outlandish as some of his competitors, but they’re tougher than the vast majority of Americans, according to a Pew poll. Research Center.
By keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, Dolan lands on a nuanced position. Although he agrees with the idea, he said he does not support court orders for the preventive confiscation of firearms.
“I think someone who has been found by a doctor and a court to be mentally ill and a violent threat to themselves or others, should they have their weapons taken away after a procedure regular? I’m okay with that,” Dolan said. “But if there’s no due process, they haven’t been tried and they haven’t shown that they pose a threat to themselves or others, then no.”
When it comes to requiring background checks for private sales at places like gun shows, Dolan argued the policy likely won’t work. With these changes, you would see more illicit backstage or parking lot sales, he said.
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