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Government & Politics

House Bill 22 Raises Concerns for Police Reform Efforts and Freedom of Speech

photo of Ohio Statehouse
The Ohio Legislature
Rep. Tavia Galonski of Akron speaks about her concerns with House Bill 22, saying it would affect police reform and free speech.

Ohio State Reps. Jeff LaRe and Shane Wilkin introduced House Bill 22, which is aimed to modify the state's law in order to expand the definition of obstruction of justice.

Under the new legislation, "failure to follow lawful order from a law enforcement officer or diverting a law enforcement officer's attention," would be added to ORC 2921.32.

If the bill is passed, it would make it a punishable crime for individuals to interfere with the duties of a law enforcement officer after a lawful order is given.

Opponents of the bill currently being considered in the Ohio House are warning that its goal of expanding the definition of obstruction of justice will undermine police reform efforts and even freedom of speech itself.

Sponsors of House Bill 22 say it’s needed to better protect the public and law enforcement in light of last summer’s protests following the police killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans.

Rep. Tavia Galonski of Akron says she already has concerns about police efforts to “protect and serve.”

Rep. Tavia Galonski
Undermining police reform efforts and even freedom of speech itself
Rep. Tavia Galonski

“House Bill 22 would hamper the efforts of individuals who see injustice and believe it should be pointed out,” she said.

The proposed changes under House Bill 22 include adding “taunting” as a form of obstruction of justice, which is also big concern for her.

Rep. Tavia Galonski
Concerns about the language in the proposed changes

"One person’s taunt is another person’s attempt to save a life,” she said.

Galonski also points to the fact that only three out of 30 people testifying at committee hearings so far have spoken in favor of the bill.