Data shows how often local police officers use force

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Use of force by Dayton police increased nearly 47% in 2023 — more than in other area communities — according to an analysis of state and local data by the Dayton Daily News.

The use of force in policing has long been a hot-button topic, but stricter scrutiny has been placed on the practice since the death of George Floyd in 2020, which sparked unrest and protests in many cities across the country.

Dayton police reported 188 use of force incidents last year, up from 128 the year before, according to data the city reported to the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

Dayton Police Chief Kamran Afzal said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News that the department is still analyzing its data and intends to release a full analysis in the summer. But preliminary analysis suggests use of force incidents increased along with certain types of crime.

“Crime overall is down, but certain aspects of violent crime are up, which leads to some of the more critical things we have to do to safeguard and protect our victims,” Afzal said.

Data provided by Dayton police shows felony charges increased 19% from 2022 to 2023, resisting arrest charges increased 30% and failure to comply charges increased 13%.

“The increase in the number of resisting arrests and failure to comply incidents impacts the use of force incidents since these are situations where a suspect is attempting to elude arrest or resist the officer from taking them into custody,” says a statement provided with the data.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

According to Afzal and the city’s data, use of force numbers, and violent crime numbers, are still below what the department saw pre-pandemic.

The fact the city provides this data to the state is a gesture of transparency. The Dayton Daily News found most area departments — and more than 600 departments across the state — do not report use of force information to the statewide database.

But that’s little comfort to those working to reduce how often Dayton police use force against its residents, and seeing reports increase.

“That’s always discouraging to hear. We certainly want those numbers to go down,” said Jacob Wourms, who works for a national police reform campaign and participated in a city task force that recommended changes to Dayton’s use of force policy, some of which the city didn’t adopt.

“I’m a firm believer in good policy. Strong policy reduces wrongdoing, holds those accountable when they do commit a violation What we see across the U.S. is police by and large are not held accountable when they use force on civilians.”

City commissioners in November disbanded that group in a 3-2 vote and replaced it with a committee that critics say has less authority and has yet to schedule a meeting.

Regional use of force trends

This news organization used Ohio public records law to obtain data directly from Dayton’s largest suburbs. That data shows:

- Kettering tracked 48 use of force incidents in 2023, up from 47 in 2022.

- Beavercreek tracked nine use of force incidents in 2023, down from 15 in 2022.

- Huber Heights tracked 65 use of force incidents in 2023, down from 67 in 2022.

- Fairborn tracked 26 use of force incidents in 2023, up from 19 in 2022.

Fairborn’s data had one incident each year marked as “Deemed Not Justified.” Kettering, Beavercreek and Huber Heights records say all incidents were in compliance both years.

Records obtained from Fairborn police show both incidents involved the same officer. In October 2022, the officer received a 12-hour suspension for “discourteous treatment of an inmate.”

In September 2023, the same officer received a “letter of counseling” for his actions attempting to apprehend a man wanted on an arrest warrant for violating a court order.

“You did not use good judgement and deployed your taser at (the suspect) for mere flight from officers,” the letter says.

Dayton and other agencies that report data to the state didn’t designate whether all the incidents were in compliance with departmental policy. Dayton did not respond to a request for such records by press time.

While this data shows year-over-year trends, it should not be used to compare departments to each other, since each department tracks use of force differently.

State, local agencies respond

In the state data, a use of force is defined as “an incident when a law enforcement or corrections officer uses any empty hand technique on a person, uses a less than lethal weapon or other object used as a less than lethal weapon on a person, discharges a firearm at or in the direction of a person, or uses any other lethal weapon or object used as a lethal weapon.”

As for what type of force was used by officers last year, tasers were common. In data reported to the state, they were used either alone or in conjunction with other means in 466 out of 2,570 total incidents.

Other types of force routinely listed include a take down, restraining hold, balance displacement and pepper spray.

Reporting use of force incidents to the Ohio Department of Public Safety is optional for departments. Of more than 900 law enforcement agencies in the state, 171 did so last year.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in March launched a new accreditation program for police departments meant to bolster the caliber of policing in the state. One of the requirements of the program — in which Dayton, Springfield and Fairborn are among the first agencies to participate — is reporting this data to the state.

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Credit: Avery Kreemer

State officials say they are also staffing up the agency that collects this data.

When asked why it’s important to make this data publicly available, Ohio Department of Public Safety spokesman Bret Crow said: “Transparency, education/awareness, data resource to assist with training.”

The Ohio State Highway Patrol falls under the Ohio Department of Public Safety and reports data to the state. The patrol reported 248 incidents in 2023, up from 234 in 2022.

“The Ohio State Highway Patrol conducts ongoing training and a review process for use of force incidents, ensuring adherence to its policies and core values,” Crow said when asked how their department works to limit such incidents.

Local police agencies had similar responses when asked the same question, noting they comply with national law enforcement accreditation standards.

Huber Heights police Lt. Tony Ashley said: “We utilize/review our policy, training, and review/analysis of all incidents throughout the year to determine if we have a concern or identify a trend. With our use of force training, defensive tactics training, de-escalation training, etc. we constantly monitor all incidents. We do all of this to minimize use of force incidents.”

Beavercreek Communications Director Katy Carrico responded: “We continually provide the most updated training in de-escalation techniques and Use of Force simulation exercises. We also comply with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office CPT requirements each and every year. In 2022, we had 947 arrests and 1,143 in 2023 (approx.) With an average of well over 30,000 calls for service every year, our Use of Force incidents are proportionately very low.”

Dayton stats, recommendations

Wourms’ task force was disbanded by the city after Dayton rejected six of its eight use of force prohibitions and cast aside the central tenet of the group’s recommendations: to only use force when it is absolutely necessary.

“I think we had a good recommendation to require that force be necessary,” Wourms said. “That’s one of the things that the Dayton commission ultimately did not agree with, and they wouldn’t implement across the city.”

Wourms works for Campaign Zero, a national group that advocates for more restrictive use of force policies such as banning chokeholds, banning shooting at moving vehicles, and requiring a use of force continuum and comprehensive reporting.

Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr., one of three on Dayton City Commission who voted to change the committee, said they are forming a new advisory committee that should be more collaborative and effective than the one it is replacing.

“It’s become evident that we need to do some things to try to find ways to improve upon how that group functions and understanding the goals and objectives of that area as well,” Mims previously said.

According to data reported to the state, the most common types of force used by Dayton police last year were the discharge of an electronic control device (86 instances), a “take down” (37 instances) and pepper spray (13 instances).

The data shows that 113 of the subjects of the incidents were Black and 68 were white.

“Where our crimes are occurring, there’s where we focus our attention to,” Afzal said, noting that city data shows 60% of the victims they are trying to help are Black.

He said the city investigates use of force incidents more thoroughly than many departments, and looks for ways to reduce those numbers to protect both officers and residents.

Dayton Police Lt. Col. Eric Henderson said the city in recent years adopted a research-driven de-escalation training that is shown to reduce use of force incidents. He also stressed that force is used in a tiny fraction of police responses.

The city’s 2022 use of force analysis said force was used in 0.10% of police calls, only 1.7% of arrests and 18.5% of reported assaults on a police officer or resisting arrest.

“We don’t like using force at all, but when you look at in context of that, it’s a very low number,” he said.

Reporter Cornelius Frolik contributed to this report.