DeWine made the comments while appearing on “Face the Nation” on CBS Sunday morning to speak about police reform, the police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus and coronavirus vaccine hesitancy.
A Columbus police officer fatally shot Bryant, a Black 16-year-old girl, on Tuesday as she swung a knife at another young woman, according to body camera footage released by the police the same day.
Speaking to the disparity in the use of force by officers on Black residents, particularly in Columbus, DeWine said: “I surely understand the feeling. I also understand the feeling of the police officer … They’ve got a tough job. They have to make split-second decisions.”
DeWine reiterated that it’s important to get training to all Ohio officers on implicit bias, de-escalation and dealing with somebody with a mental health problem.
Asked about getting rid of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers in Ohio, DeWine said, “I’m sure we will take a look at that, but I’ve really not looked at that to see what impact that does have.”
Qualified immunity is the legal principle that shields government officials, including law enforcement officers, from being sued unless they violate rights clearly established in law.
Speaking about the slowing coronavirus vaccine rollout, DeWine said Ohio has seen its vaccination rate drop to about half of what it was three weeks ago.
“I’m concerned about it,” he said. “One of the things that we’re doing is now we’re reaching out to businesses, and providing for vaccinations directly in businesses. We’re doing the same thing in our colleges, we’re doing it in our high schools. We have to be more aggressive.”
A new poll from CBS found that 22% of Americans say they will not get the coronavirus vaccine and 18% say they will maybe get it. Republicans remain more skeptical of the vaccine, with about half of Republicans expressing hesitancy.
About 30% of Ohio residents had been fully vaccinated and about 39% had received at least one dose as of Sunday, according to the Ohio Department of Health website.