COLUMBUS— State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) said she was disappointed by Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born’s unwillingness during a recent meeting to acknowledge his State Highway Patrol Troopers and contracted security agents acted inappropriately by singling out her and other Black Women at security checkpoints at the Ohio Statehouse in the past two years. Sykes has filed a civil rights complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission against the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“I’m disappointed in Director Born. I had hoped he would address the issues of discrimination and profiling in a direct and sincere manner. Instead, he stuck to talking points about an “objective” security policy for his department that in truth is highly subjective and targets African-American lawmakers like myself for discriminatory stops and searches,” Sykes said.
Sykes said she pushed for and Born reluctantly agreed to launch two separate investigations into incidents dating back to 2016, but only after she questioned him repeatedly without getting any answers about bias within the OSHP.
“I explained to Director Born repeatedly that I followed the proper established “objective” procedure and showed my badge each time I tried to go through security, and when I questioned why my badge was not being recognized I was told “I looked too young to be a legislator.’ I also explained other people of color had been stopped for unacceptable reasons. Age, gender, skin color? Those are subjective, not objective, criteria,” Sykes said.
For more than two years, State Troopers and contracted security agents have allowed white male legislators to pass unquestioned through security checkpoints at the Ohio Statehouse and the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts while stopping and searching Black lawmakers although they followed procedures and showed identification badges.
Sykes is hoping the civil rights complaint can be resolved through mediation, though that would require agreement by the entities she filed against — the Department of Public Safety (State Highway Patrol), Department of Administrative Services, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board and the Ohio House.
Mediation typically takes 45 days to complete. A full investigation into illegal discrimination, on average, takes 10 months.
Published in OhioMBE – July 1, 2018 – pdf