NASHUA, N.H. — Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a message for anyone protesting the decision not to press charges against the Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

"You need to be heard," he said after a campaign event here on Tuesday. "In America, we’re a place that was born in the area of protesting. Protesting is an American way of life."

But Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, urged people upset by the decision to protest peacefully. "We just want to make sure that the protests don’t slip into something that sets everybody back. Because in the community of Cleveland, we have had great gains made, economically, not for everybody, but for a lot of people. It’s not by chance that the Republican convention is going to Cleveland. Why is it going there? Because when people went to Cleveland, they could not believe the turnaround and they couldn’t believe the progress. So we don’t want to go backwards."

The Republican National Convention is scheduled to be held at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena from July 18 to 21.

Kasich twice told people attending his event that he is flying to Florida for a brief family vacation, which will include rounds of golf. But he told reporters that he is also closely monitoring the response to the Rice decision and has been in frequent contact with state and local law enforcement officials, state lawmakers representing Cleveland, and religious leaders.

As part of the state's response, Kasich said officials are preparing to review police dispatching to find ways to improve communication between dispatchers and officers in the field.

"We can raise the standards of dispatchers. We can bring higher-quality standards or understand their problems," he said, adding that studies have proposed establishing national standards for communication between officers and dispatchers back at police stations.

The governor again declined to comment on the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Timothy Loehmann, who opened fire on Rice, who was playing with a toy gun on the day he was fatally shot. The decision came after a year-long investigation into a shooting that was one of several to spark national protests.

But Kasich has no problem with the Justice Department's decision to continue investigating allegations of misconduct across the Cleveland police force.

"It’s fine for everybody to take a look at this, and clearly when you lose a 12-year-old, what more can you say about how tragic it is and imagine how the family feels. The friends of the family," he said. "It’s as tough a time as you could ever have in life. So our hearts go out to all of them, and we’re going to keep working to improve this overall system."

Kasich spent Monday and Tuesday campaigning in New Hampshire, the state considered most critical to his chances of winning the GOP nomination. Most polls here place him in the middle of the pack behind Republican front-runner Donald Trump and usually keeping pace with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

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